I’ve Found You started off as a very simple and short song that I first wrote many years ago when I had a little 4-Track studio set up in my bedroom. Over the years as I have recorded different versions, it has grown into a much longer song with four distinct sections.
Why not have a listen to it here:
When I wrote and recorded the first version, it was only what is now the first section of the song and it was just piano and vocals. At that stage it was only supposed to a a simple song based around just two chords, D and A. I really liked the sound of the big crashing chords played low down on the piano repeating throughout the song.
Years later when I first built my own studio I thought that this would be a good song to start off recording with. It’s very simple and it would be a good way to learn how all the nice bits of equipment I had would work together.
Once I had recorded the piano and vocals parts I then started to go through all the different bits of new software I had looking for some more sounds that I could use to add some more atmosphere to the track.
and Steam Pipe 2.
Suddenly, in the way that music can sometime, a new melody popped into my head whilst I was playing the chords again. As I started to form this into another section of the song, I though it would be interesting to have it based on the same two chords again, but the other way around going from A to D.
So I started to recorded this new section of the song. I thought that in contrast to the fairly sparse vocals of the first section, I would make this new part much more lush vocally. Rather than have a lead vocal as such, I wanted there to be a lot of harmonies all singing together as well of lots of oohs and aahs and the like.
At this point I was fairly pleased with myself. I had given my new studio a successful road test and written a new bit of music to boot. Nice! I then moved on and started working on other projects.
I had bounced a copy of the song down to my iPod and I used to listen to it from time to time. Each time I listen to it however I felt that something wasn’t quite right with it. Although I really liked the new second part of the song, I felt that the structure of the song now wasn’t working all that well. I needed something that would tie the two sections of the song back together again at the end. In short, it needed a third section.
I thought that it would be an interesting idea to bring the two vocal parts from the first two sections together to form a third final section that would tie everything together and end the song.
I have a keyboard that I use sometime when I am trying to work out complex vocal harmony parts, a Roland VP-550.
You can sing or play audio into it, then using the keyboard you can play out different lines or chords and it will pitch shift the vocal to what you are playing. I don’t really think the effect is good enough to replace actually singing the harmonies yourself, however I do find it useful for figuring out exactly where that tricky fourth harmony line needs to go.
Of course it doesn’t just have to be used to try and make fake vocals parts, you can also use it to make some great effects, namely the Vocoder.
A vocoder allows you to use the formant characteristics of one audio signal, in this case my voice, and add them to another sound such as the VP-550’s synth. The effect is that it sounds like the synth is singing, or alternative it sounds like I have turned into a robot. Famous examples of vocoders in music would include ELO’s Mr Blue Sky and Kraftwerk’s Autobahn.
I fed a few different vocal lines from the second section of the song through the vocoder and played some different chord patterns. They sounded great so I took my favourite couple of takes and used them panned left and right to make up a stereo track.
Next I started playing around with vocals from the first section of the song. My initial idea was to take little sections of the vocal, cut them up and shuffle them about the place in the third section. I spent quite a long time doing this and it sounded okay, however it wasn’t really interesting enough, so I started looking around at other things I might use to add more interest.
There is a musician I really like called Tim Exile who makes incredible exciting, interactive and experimental music using a customer setup he has built both in terms of hardware and software. I was delighted when I discovered that he was working with Native Instruments to produce some official versions of the software he uses. The first bit of software that was released is called The Finger.
Using a keyboard The Finger allows you to apply a multitude of effects including loops, filters, reverses and so on to incoming audio to produce some really amazing things. Have a look at the excellent video below to see Tim himself telling you all about it.
I fed the audio from the first section I had been working on into The Finger and did a live performance of the effects on the keyboard. It was brilliant fun and I had a great time going over it again and again, finding out what I could do and tweaking the performance. It was just like learning how to play a piece of music or a solo. After an afternoon of fun I had it all recorded and was very happy with how everything had turned out.
There’s was just one thing I wanted to sort out and that would be that, I will have finally finished this song.
All I needed to do was add some simple piano chords over the third section so that once all the vocals came to an end, the song could finish on a simple piano chord. As usual, I spoke too soon.
I have already written about why I love this piano and how I used it on my version of Happy Birthday. Suffice to say if I want a piano with character, this is the one for me.
I recorded the chords over the third section and then once again, that splendid thing started to happen, another melody started appearing in my head.
Although I was very pleased by this, I was starting to think that this was getting a bit ridiculous and I needed to put a stop to it. There was only one thing for it, a third chord!
I figured that if I threw in a G chord, I could so a I IV V chord sequence. After all that time on just two chords, this had a nice sense of ending to it.
I recorded the vocals for this final fourth section. I wanted it to be really soft and gentle, almost like a whisper. I sang really quietly and very close to the microphone. My Rode NT2-A is really nice for this as it seems to pick up every little nuance.
And that was that. I finished up the mix of the song and set it off the Abbey Road to be mastered. As you can see from what happened to me over the course of making this song, it’s hard to know when the leave something alone.
The great thing about having tracks mastered at Abbey Road, apart from the amazing job that they do obviously, is that if I mess around with it again, I’d have to get it remastered.
So it was a long road, but I really did enjoy making this song.
I really hope you enjoy it too.