the ghost of your love
1. Borrow a phrase or line from Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day.
Why Did It
BY WILLIAM J. HARRIS
Why did it
to get nothing
Why, I could
& saved a lot
Notes: This poem was previously published in In My Own Dark Way (Ithaca House, 1977) and is reprinted here by permission of William J. Harris. It is part of the portfolio “I Hope You Like Being Here with Me: The Work of William J. Harris,” curated by Howard Rambsy II.
2. Before considering any music, write all of the lyrics, including the borrowed line.
Why did it take all day to get nothing accomplished?
Why did it take all morning to get out of bed?
Why did it take all night to fall back asleep?
The ghost of your love rattling around in my head
Why did it take all my energy to not call you?
When did it get so hard to do anything at all?
Why did it break my heart to forget you?
The ghost of your love knows I’m at fault
Why did it take all day to get nothing accomplished?
Why did it take all my life to begin?
Why did I wait so long to get started?
The ghost of your love is buried within
3. Include at least one a cappella moment in the song.
i saw this poem last week and loved how simple it was but how quickly i connected with it. winter is tough. a well timed poem of the day imo.
the line i borrowed reminded me of an old melancholy cowboy song. the rest of the lyrics all fell right off the bone.
i can’t say i didn’t consider music at all before i wrote the lyrics, but i didn’t pick up my guitar or anything until it was in the shape its in now, lyrically. i could kind of hear the melody before i engaged with the music but didn’t try to think about syllables, moreso tried to capture the mood. that led to a consistently inconsistent amount of syllables per line, which was a fun challenge to sing around and kind of works with the vibe of the song.
fun fact: i almost put barnyard noises over the intro
Looking for feedback on
i've never recorded country music, so i'd love ideas and suggestions on how to punch that up. i wanted a harmonica and some lapsteel but didn't have those sitting around. also, idk how to do drums at all and am curious how other ppl make more realistic & human sounding drums in general. i want my drums to sound drunker and looser but also tighter.
TylerK March 24, 2023 3:17pm
Brush drums sound great and roomy. I’m right there. With this style of drums, it’s hard to make anything NOT sound human. You gotta be inhuman to be good at brush drums. You nailed the drums!
I read the poem trying to figure out where you got the idea to write a country banger, and I think when I saw the word NOON I felt the same feeling you must’ve. Also maybe the word WHY, if you really stick the landing on the H the way you do in this song wHyyyy.
It’s funny you said you almost put barn noises in this song, when I was listening before I read I was like “damn I wanna tell him to put some country western glass clinking bar fighting noise behind this to complete the atmosphere” haha.
You got a great voice for country. Coulda used some lap steel and harmonica but then again, not every person who performs that genre has access to these instruments at all times either. Can’t carry all’at when you’re takin’ the greyhound to the next town. This is a true blue interpretation of a real ass country song.
EliasSZ March 24, 2023 9:31am
Very different responses to the same poem, but seems like it struck both of us for similar reasons. I like how pared down this is – feels easy to imagine someone playing this just with an acoustic at a campfire.
Also props to you for doing drums even though it may not be your key point. I, too, struggle immensely at making drums ever sound like I want them too, so I usually end up just skipping them… I’ll be stealing some of these ideas in your comments for sure.
nick March 14, 2023 3:16pm
damn, cowboy. huge props indeed. great poem selection—i missed this one, but i absolutely love it. What you mentioned about the challenge of inconsistent syllable amounts is a perfect example of what made this assignment fun for me. you just end up making something you never would have otherwise.
something you could play around with is perhaps a little organ underneath it all, or maybe some piano (or pedal steel if trinity teaches you how to learn very hard things very quickly)—something to pad out the space and add a little sustain to blend with the ride. I really dig the harmonic composition of the acapella section, and would only suggest cutting it in half, and having the organ (or whatever) re-enter in the second half. The guitar sounds are excellent, deep and twangy. I won’t belabor the good points made below about the drums, but i will say, for a slow melancholy drunken rambler song like this, I wouldn’t want the drums to be too tight. Keep on swashbucklin’, buddy. Well done!
ryan March 14, 2023 1:26pm
Absolutely adore the songwriting here. Great job hearing a lyric as having potential for a specific genre and GOING for it. If someone told me this was a cover of a classic country song, I would believe it without question. Also, the zoom-out of the lyrics in the last verse, going from a wasted day to a wasted life (“why did it take all my life to begin?”) is seriously incredible. Huge props.
Glad you’re asking for feedback on how to improve the execution, because the song deserves it. Love @@Ben‘s suggestions on getting a more human drum sound. Can I ask what your process was for the drums that are currently in the recording?
@@nick‘s voice is in my head 99% of the time when I’m writing / recording drums. He’s huge on making sure the drums hit before (or at the same time) as every other instrument. Helps tremendously with feel. Ain’t nobody want a draggin’ drummer. So keeping a close eye on this is key. Hits still sneak through the 1% of the time where I don’t hear Nick nagging me, but I’ve gotten a lot better at this over the years. So I do think a large part of what’s keeping this track from feeling good rhythmically is rushing guitars and the lack of presence in the bass (is there bass? sometimes I think there is, other times I think it’s just another guitar) in lockstep with the drums. Too many fills going on, too. The more fills you allow a fake drummer, the harder it is to sell the listener overall. I think a good programmed drum performance is one that’s pretty unnoticeable. Sample-wise, I’ve not yet found anything I like more than Addictive Drums. Just great, great sounds. Often, I’ll layer other one-shot samples I’ve collected on top of them (did that for s=Flood (@ryan) this week) for additional color.
One note on structure: I think the a cappella section should be cut in half. Maybe even a quarter of the length. Halts the song too much as it currently is. The re-entrance of the band works great, though.
Another thing I think about a lot when going for a human feel (or live feel) when recording track by track is trying to get everything to sound like it’s being performed in the same room. Using the same room reverb on different instruments, panning placement (rarely hard-panning, usually just percentages here and there to insinuate position in a room), playing with the blend of close mics and room mics on drums and vocals, etc. I think this is especially helpful with earthy/live-focused genres (like country!). Picture the band equivalent of several people singing around the same mic. So this could go a long way for you.
Really do love this song, Dec. Great work.
Ben March 13, 2023 12:34pm
WOW i didnt know you had this in you. This is amazing.
The drums. Theyre tricky. And I don’t know the answer. The actual samples are pretty good and your arrangement is great, just maybe could use a few adjustments for humanization.
But, a few thoughts about cleaning and arranging and humanizing.
Thought 1: maybe dont repeat the same fills so often. Change them up. Have some fun and remove or mute a few notes in your list or piano roll, move them around, use various different tomtom samples for fills
Thought 2: adjust the volumes, sustains, and positioning (ever so slightly) on your drum notes.
Thought 3: experiment with panning each drum/cymbal slightly.
Thought 4: dirty them up a little. some minor minor distortion or weird EQing can sometimes make it sound more real.
Thought 5: and this might be the most important, and the toughest: the swing. Around 0:29-0:38 you can hear a little disconnect between the swing of the ride/snare and the swing of the guitar. theres a little bit of not lining up. they both seem swung but at different intensities and style i think?
Thought 6: do the other instruments sit in the pocket? they sit pretty well at most parts, but sometimes various instruments sit ahead or behind the drums. Nick commented that about mine last week. It’s always important (and fun) to close listen to your song and scan for times that things aren’t sitting right. Even if they’re technically perfectly aligned, sometimes the difference between human sounding and robot sounding playing is a tenth of a second of nudging. @@ryan has consistently been creating extremely human sounding drums that really feel like humans are playing them, or at least don’t stick out from the mix. I think he’d have good advice on writing drums, simplifying them, mixing them, and making them sound warm and good.@@nick can also weigh in on Thought 5 and 6 because he is good with this type of thing. @@bop_guncan also speak to pockets and to swung vs straight (and to swung vs what i call “robotic swung”).
This is awesome and i totally was not expecting to listen to this song. Sounds like something from Twelve Golden Country Greats. Your voice is perfect for this and your playing and songwriting was pretty delightful. Hope this isn’t the last we hear of your country tones.