Grandmas Favourites - Major Project
My grandma has dementia and while her mind deteroriates, when she hears music her face lights up. She was a well known singer in her younger days as the Mayoress of Preston, she would grace civil events with her beautiful voice.
In her repertoire, was climb every mountain from the Sound of Music. My Father often joined her at these events and sang with her as a child.
On her 90th birthday in 2020, a group of members from the church went and sang some of her favourite hymns, she remembered every word of the hymns. While this album will contain many of Grandmas favourite hymns, i want to also honour her by recording Climb Every Mountain and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
This page is my journey through the arrangment, and recording process . You will see frustration, tears and maybe tantrums. However most of all, I hope to be able to visit grandma and play these songs to her and capture the memories she has while she still has them.
So i hope you will enjoy the process and enjoy the final result
There will be video updates as well as written updates along the way. All unedited, all raw, yet personal and honest.
Before we go further I need to thank a few people.
My Singing Teacher - Gary Nardella
He has been my teacher for 3 years, we have had highs and lows, in fact he is the one who experiences many of the tears and tantrums; He lets me have those moments then picks me up and off we go again. He pushes me, challenges me and encourages me. We discuss life, faith and singing. I bounce ideas off him, and we workshop everything together. This album project is very much his as it is mine. I dont know how I can ever say thank you enough to him.
Victoria Univeristy Music Team
If you had told me when i first started studying music, that I would be making my own album, I would have laughed at you. There have so many learning exeriences and challenges along the way over the last 2.5 years. The VU Music team, knows every student by name, their strengths and weaknesses and push you to ensure your weaknesses become stronger.
This is why this album journey is being completed by me. I am stepping out of my comfort zone, recording, producing, mixing and mastering this on my own. Which i couldn't do without the support of the VU music team. I can also say the from next year, things will be quieter around the place too.
Climb Every Mountain
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
The Old Rugged Cross
How Great Thou Art
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
One of the things i wanted to do was to sing songs in the keys Grandma may have sung them in. Here is a snippet of a discussion in my singing lesson
In the Beginning . . . . . . . . . . . .of the project
Motivation was high, plans were made, going to nail this easy. This is the easiest thing I've ever done . . . . . or so I thought.
As is my personality, i did the easy stuff first, website sorted, design cover, fluff around a bit, do a little bit here and there and then SLAM!!!!! Life happens
On the 4th March of with a start, had a discussion of what to do with somewhere over the rainbow. The plan was to submit the song as part of solo project semester 1 to obtain feedback and make any changes for the final recording.
Here is a snippet of that rehearsal, working on Somewhere Over the Rainbow from March 4 2021
This is the album cover, that I designed in CANVA. It is simple, elegant and features the words "for Grandma" with my name in small letters in the top left hand corner and favourite songs in the bottom right hand corner. I put it on my Youtube community tab, and asked for feedback. Everyone liked it and thought it would be the perfect cover.
There was a lot of discussion as to how the song should be arranged. Should the origianal be kept authentic or should it be a new style. Working on a song over and over again can be tiring, especially when there is so much indecision on my part as to how this song should go.
Here is how it ended up for the end of Semester 1 2021. At the time of recording i was sick. I ended up with an ear infection and sinsus issues that affected my asthma. When you have an assignment due date, I had to make a decision whether to seek an extension or to go for it. I was feeling miserable and demotivated and decided to go for it. Its is my best work - probably not. However, I feel that this is encouragment to not only myself but to everyone that we can achieve anything admist adversity. This was recorded in my bedroom.
The video footage is from my singing lesson rehearsing the same song - The date is 9 June 2021
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
The whole of the semester break I felt miserable, I was watching my proposed dates for the project pass me by, and at times i wanted to give up. I didn't have singing lessons during most of that time - my nose was running, my eyes watering. Both my singing teacher and I felt that the most important thing was for me to get well again.
This lead to doctor appointments and specialist appointments. The 5th of August was the first time in 5-6 that i had properly sang without feeling short of breath, or wanting to give up. The difference between the June recording and the August lesson is amazing.
Also it was the first time i could actually give Climb Every Mountain a proper go - it is a technical song with chest, mid chest and head voice involved. I am developing the mid chest and expanding the range. This is what is being worked on in this workshop. The last note is a top A.
Semester 2 2021 - Game Plan
For semester 2, I have decided that for my Ensemble (which will be remote) I will focus on a song for my project.
Block 1 of Semester 2 - I worked on Amazing Grace. Thanks to lockdown, I had to record, mix, master everything myself.
I recorded the keys part, then changed the sound to guitar and added a drum beat and key change for the 4th verse.
Recording at home is the pits, not only is there outside noises to contend with my computer would freeze halfway through. The vocals on this version had 8 attempts before I not only got my vocals to where i wanted them, but also where the computer didn't freeze on me.
The feedback on ensemble will be used to make any improvements for the album.
I had orginally recorded it in D, however changed it to G and took everything down an octave, to work on my mide chest voice.
My demo of Amazing Grace is ok, it is not amazing sadly. I have to work out, why the timing of the drums etc moves when the file is exported out of garage band. This is something I am working on however ideally, I would like to record this with my singing teacher in his studio.
2 Steps forward 3 Steps back
It would seem everytime I feel like i gain momentum, something happens to knock me down. My plan for second semester was to spend some time in the rehearsal rooms of Kindred, to start laying down the backing tracks for the songs. With the current lockdow now extending, I have to now record from home. My keyboard has a key that doesnt work and finances have prevented me from getting is fixed.The workaround I have been using is to record the backinng an octave lower and transpose it up the octave. This unfortunately, distorts the backing track slightly, however it is important that I keep the project on track and ticking. I may have to consider finding someone to record the backings for me, this is something I will have to make a decision on As soon as possible.
Rethinking The Plan
Since August 5 2021, when Victoria went into lockdown, the only contact I have had with my singing teacher as been via SMS. We had planned to use this time to record and work on the recordings. This is virtually impossible to do over zoom.
I have sent things to him for feedback and worked on it. Lessons have been hard to facilitate over zoom.
This has entirely my fault. I have not chased up to find out when he is available - this is not really good enough to be honest. I know this, beating myself up over it, won't in fact help.
Admittedly by thursdays I am usually exhausted after 3 days of classes and assignments. I have noted that during the time of lockdown, I have had lots of low days and lots of good days . When the days have been good, I have focussed on my project, being highly productive, which took out the bad days.
It me to work on all the songs and release them when they are ready.
Final Thoughts and Self Reflection
What did I Learn?
I learnt that I am a visionary, I have big great ideas and grand plans - I can see the finished product and yet have no idea of the work and the effort it would to complete. I had difficulty breaking the tasks down and therefore missed a few vital steps in the process which meant I had to go back and either redo or start again. I learnt that trying to everything myself only leads to burnout and when there are multiple responsibilies one can be pulled in many different directions all at once. I have been greatful for my singing teacher who allowed me to bounce idea off him and workshop ideas during my lesson. He also kept me grounded ensuring I did not get too carried away.
My strengths have been organisation, and vision. I have been very clear on my vision since the start and haven't waivered from it. My Weaknesses have included hours of procrastination, hours of self doubt and hours of negative self talk.
My organisation improved after watching some planning videos on youtube and using stickers and colour coordination for tasks really helped. Each day would include list of tasks for each part of my life, and i would attempt to complete as many as I could.
It would be fair to say I totally underestimated the time it would take. The initial recording is the easiest of all, it is the mixing and mastering that is taking all the time. Taking recordhing this semester has definately given me that wake up call. Once song could take a month or so to finalise. It is the same as making a music video, it is the editing of the video that takes all the time.
If I had the time over again, I would certainly give myself more time to complete the tasks. I think my excitement got the better of me and I thought this would not be as hard as it turned out to be.
One of the things that I have learnt about myself, during this project is that my musicianship is not as good as my academic analytical skills. I realised that my behind the scenes skills - organisation, analysis and even technology far outweigh my musicianship. In 2022, I am looking at studying law, to focus on music/entertainment law.
I had planned on this being ready to present to Grandma on my birthday, however, this deadline may be highly unlikely. My new goal is now to get one song ready at a time. This will not only work best for me, however, it will also not overwhelmed Grandma with many songs at once. She can listen to a song reflect and hopefully let the memories flow. Hopefully by October she will be able to have visitors and so my father will be able to visit her, play her the song and write down any memories that may come from the song.
The new goal will be to release one song a month from 9 October 2021 (my birthday) . Which song that will be I need to decide promptly.
Update 16 September 2021. Lockdown is still causing issues, motivation wise and technical wise. It would seem my laptop is not coping with the recording process. It a 2012 macbook pro, it keeps freezing up on me when I record. The amount of frustration it is causing cannot be explained. This further delays my projet start date. At this stage If I can one song out by the end of the year it will be a miracle.
Not all of the worked on in my lessons were the songs on this EP. To build stamina for the bigger songs, I worked on similar style songs. Here is Memories from Cats. You can hear Gary, my teacher picking up diction issues. This is from May 21 2021.
The note after the interlude, an F gives me grief and i have trouble pitching it.
This video is an example of how the song is broken down and worked on. This song is also great for the head to chest transistion which, since my accident 3 years ago has needed work.
Old Hymns being rearranged is popular at the moment.Chris Tomlin, is one of my famous ones, currently, with his Amazing Grace (my chains are gone) and Crown Him Majesty.
He is Silvie Paladino and The Salvation Army Melbourne Staff Band presenting Crown Him (majesty)
The album when released will be free, however dontations can be made via paypal if someone wants to contribute financially.
This is the latest demo, and the one I hope to release. It will be part of my block 3 ensemble piece