Saturday, February 26, 2022

To the Symphony!


After two longs years, we made it back to Benaroya Hall to hear the symphony in all its live, right there, glory. There's something about the experience of live music that transcends all other attempts at its replication. 

It just doesn't.

I've been around long enough to have listened to music, of many genres, in any number of delivery systems, from the single ear pieces that came with transistor radios, the kind we'd surreptitiously hide in our pockets—both for the racy music of that time, and because other activities thrust upon us like school and church were boring and having an earpiece, even if it was a cheap one, made us feel like a spy or secret agent—to lots of high-end stereo systems... and everything in between, from boomboxes to Walkmans of every variety (I wore out at least 5 over the years.)

But none of that compares to being right there. Not only hearing the music, but being a part of its creation; its performance. Real people playing real instruments in real time. There's the quiet, the light, the surges, the bombast, the nuance; the great talent and ability to play Rachmaninov, in this instance Garrick Ohlsson, playing the piece from memory. He followed that with an encore, played to perfection, yet with the ease as if he were at the family piano—assuming yours is a concert grand.

The main work was from Sebelius, as well as a new work, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, from Ellen Reid, titled, Today and Today and Today and Today and Today and Today and Today and Today and Today and today; her ode to the joys of pandemic living. 

And it was wonderful.

Even the ride down of the lightrail train, brimming with riders and the sounds of life, added to the experience. It was good to be out, masks and all.

©2022 David William Pearce

Saturday, February 19, 2022

The End is Only the Beginning...


Here we are at the end of our journey!

Well, sorta... almost. There are a few things left to do... assuming you want to.

This is the last I'll harp on the subject, and it's at this point where if you're serious, or just interested, you move into the realm of copyright and representation, so far as your establishment as a composer, writer, owner of salable materials, etc. It's here you encounter entities such as the copyright office, PROs (Performance Rights Organizations) such as ASCAP/BMI, which collect payments when your music is used publicly, and  SoundExchange, which collects digital performance royalties. There are also sync licenses, which are required if you want your music used in movies, TV, commercials, and games


This is registering your songs with the government, allowing you the means of seeking redress in the courts if the need should arise. With most people it won't because the only time courts get involved is when big money is involved, otherwise it's not worth the cost of lawyers and the rest. I registered my works because I wanted there to be a permanent record of my songs. That way if someone wanted to hear them down the road, there'd be a place to find them.

ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange

These organizations are tasked with making sure you get paid for your songs if you put them out into the public market and they are performed. ASCAP and BMI are for songwriters/composers whose works are used, SoundExchange is the collection of royalties from digital works, and who collects is based on who owns the rights to those songs and performances. If it's just you, it's not too complicated. Remember, I said not too...


Metadata is all the information about the songs, from who wrote it, who owns it (this comes up when labels are involved), who performed on the recording and played what, who produced the recording, where it was recorded, how long it is, along with obvious things like title, performer name, date recorded, etc. This is incredibly important of you have visions of hearing it as a sync. It's also very important in dealing with PROs and SoundExchange. And don't think that just because whoever you distribute with helps out that everything gets out correctly. I've spent many delightful days cleaning up errors with my accounts. I have spreadsheets for all that which I highly recommend you have as well. That's life.

But wait, There's More!

Last, but not least, is how much time, energy, and most importantly, money you going to spent to let the world know about your great new release. There's a whole wide world out there ready, willing, and able to help you with this... for a small fee. I'll leave that to you. Just be careful about your expectations and ROI (return on investment).

That's some of it—there's always more. Hopefully, this helps a little.

©2022 David William Pearce

Friday, February 11, 2022

Let It Be

 The first Beatles album I bought, was a copy of Let it Be from the cut bin of a long gone record store in the Arvada Plaza in 1972. It was not my start with the Beatles; like most of us present at that time, I heard their music on the radio from I Want to Hold Your Hand on. In the years that followed, I bought most of their albums and listened to them at length. I'm certainly not unique in that aspect. I've watched their movies and TV appearances with one exception: Let it Be, which, by the time I wanted to watch it, had been given the kibosh by McCartney, who hated it.
Now there's Get Back, Peter Jackson's re-edit and enhancement of the Let it Be film.
Like most fans, I found it very interesting, though for reasons that might surprise. 

If you've read the many missives on the show, you'll note how many people were surprised that the Beatles got along. It has been taken as gospel that by then they were at each others throats and it's why they broke up. Mostly, though, other than when George left for a short time, they seem to be on good terms. And it's apparent they had a very good time playing together. But the gloom is there for anyone looking; it's just parsed out by the better time they had working through the songs. For those fans and Beatleheads cheered by the affability shown, it's proof of...

The fact that, reduced to four guys who grew up together playing music, it's a way to see them for how they were when just the music was on the table. Everywhere else, when they were "THE BEATLES," it's obvious how heavy it wore on them. The whole Let it Be project was a way for them to get back to their roots, before they skyrocketed to fame, before everything became bigger and more important and significant.

The irony, for those looking, is how hard that had become, and why they inevitably broke up. They broke up because being "THE BEATLES" was unsustainable. If you pay attention, all the big issues within the group come up: Who should manage? Should they play live, do concerts, or are then just an album band? And if just an album band, should it be like it was when they were fab, something Let it Be tried to recreate, or like the White Album, where everyone works on this and that, playing on their track, but not necessarily together?

It also answers the one big question everyone who harbored a hope they'd get back together had: Just think of all the great music they could have made? Within the show, you hear them playing snippets of songs that later turned up on their solo records, which means that we've heard all the songs that might have been on a Beatles record. Maybe not exactly as we heard them, but then again if you listen closely to Abbey Road, their last actual album, you hear all of the subsequent song stylings that turn up on their solo records. There's nothing we would have missed.

The ugly truth is the music business is hard. Watch any documentary on successful bands, and that always emerges. To project upon them the idea that should always be the 20yo mop-tops from Liverpool is fantasy.  As Lennon himself said: "The Beatles were what the Beatles were... The Beatles gave everything they've got to give and more, and it exists on record. There's no need for the Beatles—for what people think are the Beatles (emphasis mine)—the four guys that used to be that group can never be that group again... "

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the show; I enjoyed every minute of it. It showed their talent, their work ethic, their knowledge of music, and their legacy as a cover band learning the ropes and using it to inform their music later on. It showed their joy at making music together. 

As a note to that, I highly recommend listening to Let it Be... Naked, Paul's realization of what the album was meant to be. It's the five of them, Billy Preston being the fifth, playing together, straight up. No Phil Spector ornamentation. Like all of their work, it's a very good album. And having watched Get Back, it rings true from first note to the last. 

*Musician Magazine 3

©2022 David William Pearce

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Now in the End...Part 1

 The hard work is done, I say with some satisfaction. Only took 3 years. 

As the last 4 posts have covered, I got the songs written, and recorded, and put in an order that I think makes them work well with one another; a nice flow from beginning to end. And isn't that what we all want?

The bigger questions come next, the biggest being: are you going to release the songs for distribution? This is different that passing out thumb drives, or sending out audio files to friends and relatives. This is creating artwork, having physical copies made, if desired, and finding a distributor.

We're now in the business end of things.


Gotta have artwork. Just do. It can be a simple photo with a title across it. It can be a full-fledged work of art, something you create or have created by an artist. And it must be large enough, by pixel, to meet the requirements of many of the places you may choose to put it out for you, otherwise it'll look terrible. 

Physical copies

This can be CDs, good ol' vinyl records, labelled thumb drives. The companies that make them will need artwork of commensurate quality, they'll decline it if it doesn't meet their requirements, and hi-res audio files: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, and DSD. No mp3s. You'll need these for copyright, as well. Vinyl has its own issues with required mastering and wait times given the upswing in interest. You'll also need to make sure your songs will fit. Welcome to the good old days.


You'll need this if you want your music on Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music Amazon, YouTube, etc. Companies like Distrokid, CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto, Record Union, and many more. I went with CD Baby basically for simplicity and that they have a one time charge and cover nearly all of the streaming services. But that's just me. Yes, they take a cut.

Head hurt yet?

Don't worry, there's more. We'll look at fun things like ASCAP/BMI and Sound Exchange and copyright and Bandcamp in our next exciting installment.

©2022 David William Pearce

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Beginning of the End...Part 4


Let's Put This All Together

The songs are done. Alright. Is that it? Are we done? 

Heck no.

So, now what?

The next great adventure is setting the songs in order...assuming you have any interest in that. And, believe it not, it is a part of the process of putting a record out. I know this because I've read enough articles and interviews with bands and artists over the years discussing just how and why they put this song here or that song there to know that it's a part of the game.

And, it can be a lot of fun. Why? Because you get to listen to all your great new songs over and over again (this doesn't count the many times you went through them while recording and mixing and mastering).

The album playlist, the order in which the recording are played, assuming the listener plays them in order, is fairly important as it defines the flow the album will take when listened to. Do you want to get out of the gate fast? Then begin with a flashy number—one that sets the tone; think Hells Bells on AC/DC's Back in Black. Or maybe there's a song that defines the mood or theme of the album, say if it's all about love or a sign of the times. Maybe it's just a party album and you want the groove going right out the door.

Once that's set, lay out all the other songs and see how they fit together. If it's a CD or straight to Soundcloud or Bandcamp there's no need to find a break to flip over the record. (I never thought that would come back into vogue, but...people are buying vinyl again. Just don't know if they're actually spinning the records on a turntable.) Decide what goes where. The best way to work this out is to move them around and find what sounds best to you. Like I said, you'll be listening to the songs a lot.

Now if every song sounds the same, put the best one first—that's your single.

Next is artwork

This I leave up to you. Just make sure it's big enough and available in the right format. We'll get to that when we send it out and if we decide to have physical copies made.

©2022 David William Pearce

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Beginning of the End...Part 3



Because we live in the era of recorded music, it seems the logical endpoint is to want your songs to have a recorded version. Something to play for those who might want to hear it, in all its sonic glory (hopefully). Something to be remembered by. 

Then there's the nuts and bolts of it, which most songwriters and performers are unfamiliar with. The good ol' tech stuff.

Me, I record my own music. I do it because in the beginning I couldn't afford to rent time in a studio. 10 grand was a lot of money, and still is. So I got a 4-track recorder and over time taught myself how to make a decent recording. These days I have a 32-track digital studio (Tascam) on which I work my magic. I have outboard gear and pedals that I run the mics and instruments through; guitars, keyboards, and drums to perform on (I don't program the sounds mainly because I haven't taught myself to, and I'm reasonably proficient as a player so I shouldn't need to). 

The Process

Once I have to chords and lyrics to a song, I create a scratch track of the main instrument, which for me is either a guitar or a keyboard, and one for the lead vocal. From there I put together the song. Usually at that point I have a good idea of how I want the song to sound, which additional instruments to add, vocals, and the like. For the most part I get what I'm going for, but also I find that which I did not expect, which is the beauty of experimentation. Frustrations happen, but as you work through it, good things come through. Some might find this a fascinating process, others bored to tears. Playing the part requires you getting a clean take without mistakes, which sometimes means multiple takes. And every blue moon you get to the end of recording the parts and realize it's not going to work and you have to start over. I've been fortunate that that hasn't happened too often.

Pretty exciting, huh?

Like I said: nuts and bolts. How long a song takes is usually dependant on how simple or complex the arrangement. A guitar and vocal generally go quick. Multiple guitars, voices, keys, percussion, take more time and make mixing a more time consuming affair.


Mixing is putting it all together into something that sounds great, which isn't as easy as it sounds—exactly. It's like officiating: do it well and no one notices; do it poorly and everyone complains. I personally go for clear and clean, rather than loud and compressed, which often lends itself to muddy thick recording or all low end, some high end, and no real middle. 

I record with the mix in mind, meaning I add whatever effects directly to the track when recording it. The only variable then when mixing is reverb, which I do through the board so it can be adjusted in the mix. This makes the mixing easier because you're basically panning (moving the sound left and right) and setting track sound levels, while not also trying to find the right effects as well. Mostly this is because I don't have a beautiful Neve mixing board and a big room of outboard gear. 

Mastering is a fancy term for setting the right amount of compression across the entire song versus individual tracks after setting the final mix. I'm not a fan of all the massive compression found in pop and rock music these days. I run it through a standard program that's part of my recorder.

If you've gotten this far and haven't fallen asleep, congratulations. Like I said, nuts and bolts.

Next, making sense of what you've got.

©2022 David William Pearce

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Beginning of the End... Part 2


In the beginning was the music, and mostly, it was good...Got to have the songs to do anything.

The Music.

We all approach how we write our songs in our own way, to state the obvious. For me, the music always come first. It's possible that I've written a song from a lyric, but if I have I don't remember it. The music comes to me mostly in my head: I'll hear something (music is always dancing around in my head) and try to replicate it on the guitar, or every blue moon on a keyboard. Sometimes it comes from goofing around while I'm practicing other music and my mind wonders. This happens often. Sometimes I'm playing through a cover and that sparks an idea. I also tend to write in batches and have unfinished songs sitting around as I work through the other songs I'm recording.

It was in these unfinished songs that I went from Whispers (From a Forgotten Memory) to This Wonderful Life, with Winter in the middle. 

Organizing songs.

Since the early 80s, I tend to organize the songs I'm working on around a common theme, and having written 2 albums, We Three and Whispers, around the personal and intimate, I wanted to work on something else. I wanted to talk about the world we live in, as I had in the late 80s and those times. (Remarkably, or perhaps not, little seems to have changed.) Some of this was started when I was asked to write a song for a benefit to support homeless mothers and their children. I don't generally write to spec, but it's good to challenge yourself periodically. What came out was A Mother's Arms, and it was the spark that got me moving.

I know that most of the people I associate with in the songwriting community are not recording artists (a somewhat pretentious term, but that's how I see myself, as recording is what I focused on most with my songs), and because of that, I always hear the songs arranged with multiple instruments as I work on them before I ever start recording, and being a DIY guy since the 80s, it seems perfectly natural to do this.

Consequently, all these songs were taking form in my head as they came to me, and it was as that point that I decided to push myself to create a kind of musical journey (more possible pretentiousness) that drew from all the years of listening to and making music. I wanted to, in a sense, memorialize the music of my life—to create my part in all the music that I'd loved over the years. In this instance, I tried to structured the songs based on the genre they came from, whether they would have definable verses, choruses, and bridges.

The lyrics.

For the most part, I'm a terrible procrastinator when it comes to lyrics. Songs will sit around for months before I put any words to them. Mostly because I want the lyrics to mean something. Some songs are just for fun, are meant to be simple; there's no need for them to be anything beyond that. Dance music is like that: it's meant to be danced to, you're not going to spend any length of time listening to them with headphones in order to really understand the song (think the difference between a disco tune and a Dylan tune). I like lyrics that can be read with many meanings, but in the simplest way. I think for the most part I've succeeded. This Wonderful Life is full of these kind of songs. I also like the music and the lyrics to work together, I want the mood the music creates to inform the feel of the lyrics if that makes sense. 

All together now.

Once the songs have a musical structure and lyrics, it's time to record.

©2021 David William Pearce