So some of these songs that I’m recording are familiar friends that I’ve played regularly over the years, some are not. The main reason for this is that I haven’t had my keyboards set up on a regular basis in recent times, so those that were written on piano have been neglected. As a consequence, my playing technique is a little rusty and I’ve found it difficult to get a fluent and confident performance of the basic track recorded.
This has led me back to seeing what I can do with Cubase’s Chord Track. Much to my surprise, there are a number of websites that offer multipart MIDI files of well known songs for free and some of these are of surprising quality. To see if there was any way I could press these into service, I downloaded a few different piano-based songs and imported them into my skeleton arrangements.
It quickly became obvious that, entertaining as it was to hear the original parts from the records transposed to my chord sequence, there are limitations to what can be achieved. Unless your song sections align, (e.g. your verse is 8 bars and the imported song has a discrete 8 bar section), you have to start cutting or copying bars to get parts of the right length. As I’ve noted before, it’s not unusual for me to have the odd bar of 2/4 in a verse or chorus and that just adds to the difficulty and complexity of using [and abusing] pre-recorded parts. As a consequence, I don’t see that there’s a lot of mileage in this approach, so I’ll be back to recording the best performance I can for the time being. At least with MIDI, you can readily down the tempo to take some of the pressure off lacklustre playing, albeit at the expense of that all-important “feel”. More practice, methinks!
That said, it wasn’t a total waste of time. Amongst the tracks I imported was Roxette’s “Fading Like A Flower”. Now I’ve always liked this Swedish duo, (enjoyed seeing them touring again in Manchester last year), but it was refreshing and inspiring to look at how the arrangement of that song works. It’s a power ballad, but it eschews the stereotype of the piano starting the song and everyone else joining in as the arrangement builds in favour of a more dynamic structure driven by percussion. This makes me more enthused than ever to keep on striving to step away from my own clichés and out of my comfort zone to find a fresh direction for each of these songs.