Okay, “Lida Rose” wasn’t … perfect. It was far from it actually, which is why I never bothered to buy a mechanical / digital license and make it available publically A year later, though, I’d learned a lot, and I started to take piano lessons. Well, it’s more like I picked them up again after a LOOONG hiatous. In searching for my newest project, I remembered a song that I never got to sing back while I was in my University’s premiere choral group in college. It was a brand new piece at the time, and was given to the University’s smaller and more elite chamber choir. They toured with us that year and we who weren’t in the Chamber Singers were able to hear them perform this beautiful piece over and over again, wishing that we’d been able to sing it too. That piece was Morten Lauridsen’s “Dirait-On”, and now almost 16 years after the song was composed, thousands of choir singers all over the world have personal connections to and a unique love for this song. There’s a good reason for that. I decided several months ago that my next project would be to record “Dirait-On” with all vocal parts, and the piano accompaniment, performed by myself.
I had no doubt I could sing it; that would be the (relatively) easy part, although that wasn’t particularly easy either (see below). But given my state of ability on the piano and my experience with recording, this was a monstrous task I had set for myself. Here’s how the process broke down in 10 “easy” steps:
1.) Buy the music (the easiest and most painless part of the WHOLE process!)
2.) Learn how to play piano (still workin’ on this one…)
3.) Learn how to play “Dirait-On” (in D-flat — uhgg!)
4.) Record the piano part. (Sounds easy when you say it like that…)
5.) Learn how to pronounce the French words (Equally “easy”…)
6.) Learn all the singing parts.
7.) Record eight versions of me singing all the parts (We didn’t get a long AT ALL!)
8.) Do post production work to correct any syncing issues, tuning problems, noise removal, etc. (Rule #1: Good recording in the first place is better than tedious correction work afterwards…)
9.) Mix the song. (I finally decided to pay someone to do this…)
10.) Master the song. (Paid for this too)
In this installment, I’ll be focusing on:
Steps 1 Thru 4 : The Piano Part
A lesser man would have given up before he even started. 🙂 I hadn’t played piano in a LONG time, and even then, I would never have been able to play even this moderately easy accompaniment even at the peak of my piano abilities. Still, I believe strongly that in order to learn something, it’s best to have a goal in mind, a project to complete for which learning that thing is essential. “Dirait-On” was my project, and I had stepped into the deep end of the pool. Luckily my piano teacher was on board with my project, and we worked on this piece together for two months before I was finally able to plunk my way through the first third or so of the song. Here’s what it sounded like back in late August this year:
Not bad, eh? I know. I had a LONG way to go. Did I mention it’s in D-flat Major? That uses ALL the black keys people! A little respect, that’s all I’m sayin’. Anyway, I kept at it to the point that whenever I fired up the keyboard, playing “Dirait-On” was effectively my neutral. I did it constantly, and my wife was probably grateful for my headphones. Once I started to actually get the hang of it, I practiced even more because I started to get VERY anxious to try and lay some scratch vocals down and figure out exactly how I wanted to sing this song.
Although it took two more months, and a lot of recording, evaluating with scratch vocals, and then recording again, here’s a snippet of what became my final piano performance as it exists in the finished track:
The moral of the story? Persistance pays off! Don’t think you can do it? Think again.
Of course, the piano part was only half the battle. The rest of it was the vocal performance, and all the vocal subtlety, good recording techniques, and failed attempts at noiseless environments that entailed. More about that next time, though. Until then, thanks for reading.
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