There’s a guy I used to work with who was a singer/songwriter and he had aspirations of making it big as an R&B artist. In some of the lull moments on the job, we would sit and talk about music and, I dunno, he didn’t believe that I was a musician or that’s the impression he gave me at times.
We’d gone to a local music store to look at keyboards. He was a fan of Yamaha keyboards and had his eyes on a model that, right now, I can’t remember (but you know I’ll remember it later today and when I’m not thinking about it). I liked Yamaha’s keyboards but some of their sounds weren’t… quite right for my ear. I already had a Technics keyboard and it was frigging amazing but that day, a Kork workstation caught my eye and I was drawn to it like a bee to honey.
I found its power switch and fired it up; I laid my fingers on the keyboard and played a simple warm-up piece that I’d been taught many years before that was designed to enforce proper fingering (and, okay, let this pun stand for the moment) and after doing some idle tinkering, I was hooked. I had to have this instrument and the $3,000 price tag didn’t bother me one bit and more so when I knew that I had a huge bonus coming my way that made that $3,000 look like chump change.
The money hit and cleared my account and… I went on a buying spree. First, I bought the drum kit that you can see in my “Give The Drummer Some!” scribble for this project because that store was like five minutes away. I dropped them off at home – my wife had her “oh shit” look on her face – as I told her that I’d be back in a hour. I hauled ass to the store where I fell in love with the Korg workstation and had a bad moment when the guy at the store said that he didn’t know if they had any more of them in stock and outside of the demo. A couple of things about that.
I had the sense that he didn’t want to sell me the keyboard; I had the sense that he thought that I couldn’t afford it. He’s telling me that he can order me one but it’ll take a month to get it and I called him on his bullshit and I was uncharacteristically irate and even said that if he didn’t want to sell me one, just fucking say so and I might have mentioned that if he thought that I couldn’t afford it, get the fucking keyboard from the back and run my card and find out what happens.
I guess he said, “Oh, fuck me – this motherfucker is for real!” or something or maybe he just wanted me to stop embarrassing him or whatever. He goes in the back and, what do you know? There was one back there after all! Punk-assed bitch. He rings me up; I give him my card; he slides it and gets this surprised look on his face when the sale was approved. I’m still too pissed at him to gloat but I let him know that I wasn’t happy with him. Paperwork in hand and… now I gotta get this thing in my Honda Accord; it’s the 77-key model and I admit to not have taken its size in mind but I got it in the car and hauled ass home.
I tell my boy at work that I got the keyboard and since I figured that he wasn’t going to believe me, I took a picture of it sitting in my “living room” area and it’s set up on the dual keyboard stand with the Technics but despite this, he wanted proof that I could, in fact, not only play but compose and challenged me to write and play something and record it so he could hear it.
Challenge accepted. It took some doing but I got my hands on the stuff I was going to need to pull this off from the MIDI stuff I needed to the SONAR software and to the Tascam recorder/mixer I’d need to, eventually, burn whatever I came up with to CD. I spent the next couple of days giving myself a crash course in how these two very different keyboards could work together via MIDI as well as another crash course in the SONAR software. My boy is getting impatient and giving me his best “you’re full of shit” look, which I ignored. I came home from work that day, sat down at my new MIDI keyboard rig, fired them up, tinkered with some setting for a moment before putting my fingers on the keyboards and… just let them do their thing.
Two hours and a lot of error corrections, I had the new and original song put together including manually recreating a pre-set drum track that the Technics already had – yeah, I was showing off at this point. I had some bad moments transferring it from the computer to the Tascam but I figured it out and, as my proof that I wasn’t full of shit, burned the new song to tape so I could hand it to him, which I did the next day.
As I was replaying the song from the SONAR software my wife and our live-in girlfriend were listening to the song it… got them feeling some kind of way because they dragged me from my setup, took me to bed, and wore my ass out for the rest of the night and into the wee hours of the morning. The next day, my very exhausted ass handed my boy the tape and all I said was, “Here you go – give it a listen.” We take a break and go out to his truck; he puts the cassette in, and presses play… and the song is surrounding us and he’s said, “You really did this.”
“I told you I could,” I said. “It took me longer to get it on tape than it did for me to create it.” Ah, but he wasn’t quite “impressed” and asked if he could take the tape home so his wife could listen to it and I said that he could since, now, I can put it on all the tapes I wanted to. The next day and when he gives me back the tape, he says, “My wife wants to talk to you.”
Um, okay. He calls her and hands me his phone and the first thing she said was, “That was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time! Why did you choose oboe for the solo instrument?” I tell her what I was thinking and feeling in the moment and, well, I’ve always thought that the oboe is a sexy instrument, and it was also the solo voice on Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos’ rendition of Bach’s “Air on A G-String.” She talked about this one chord change in the song that, whew, it just grabs you and I knew what she was talking about and she even said that after hearing the song a few times, she made her husband’s night… interesting. She asked what the name of the piece was and I said, “In My Dreams” and, no, I couldn’t tell her why I named it like that but… it fit.
He’s impressed but challenges me to compose a different piece and just for piano. That was easier and eventually convinced him that I was the real-deal musician I said I was – and I named that piece, “Infinity” because as I composed and played it “on the fly,” I realized that it could go on “forever” and my biggest problem was trying to figure out how to end the song and when I got it as cleaned up as I was going to get it, whew, it’s 8:20 long. My boy liked “Infinity” more than he did “In My Dreams” but that motivated him to get with another musician friend of his and throw down a song of his own: “I Know You’re Out There Waiting.” It’s a damned good piece of music, too – but I had no doubts about his bona fides as a singer/songwriter.
I eventually burned both songs – and few “practice pieces” to CD as well as saving them to the computer and added them to my music collection as well as being on a playlist. Doing them… stretched me on the technical side of it and I wish that I could include “In My Dreams” here – the file size of the song is too big for WordPress and my free account. Oh, well. I listened to this song last night and, years after I originally wrote it, I still sit and shake my head while thinking, “Damn… I really did that, didn’t I?”
I’d taken a copy of my CD to Japan with me when we’d gone to visit my son and his family there so he could hear it and give me some feedback since he, too, plays piano/keyboard. He listened – and I saw the look on his face when that chord change “punched him in his soul” and when it was done he said, “Damn, Pop – that was sweet! And it only took you a couple of hours to throw it down?”
His feedback meant more to me than the guy at work’s critique did.
We had had a barbeque one nice summer day and I was doing double duty as the grill chef and DJ and I hadn’t realized that, when I was loading up the dual disc player with music, I’d stuck my CD in the pile until I heard it playing. I thought, “Oh, shit – I didn’t mean to put that in the pile!” but the folks in attendance heard it and… stopped whatever they were doing and talking about.
Someone asked, “What’s the name of that song and who did it?” and my wife told them that I did the song and, yeah, I had to prove it by getting the computer to play it on my keyboards. One woman said, “I could fuck to that song – how can I get a copy of it?” Her husband got this look on his face that I interpreted as him going to be in deep doo-doo when they got home… and you know I gave her a copy of it (and after making sure that my rights to the song weren’t going to be usurped).
I would play it for the woman who joined our family and after she heard it, she kissed me so deeply that it not only took my breath away, but I think she took part of my soul, too – and then she jumped my bones and finished stealing what was left of my soul.
The song is… sexy. It wasn’t intended to be but when I write music, I write whatever I happen to be feeling in the moment and this song wasn’t any different… as far as I was concerned. It’s not easy to explain how I came up with the song but those of you who have written a song or have just come up with something as you sat at the piano or some other keyboard, you know how that works. You start with a few notes and it just… comes to life from there.
And I finally remembered the keyboard my friend was looking at that day and bought – after I’d gotten mine, of course: The Yamaha Motif 8. It took a quick trip to the bathroom for me to remember it.
I played “In My Dreams” for my mom but didn’t tell her that I wrote and performed the song; I wanted her to listen to it “unbiased” and as she listened, I just watch her facial expressions that would tell me more about what she thought of the song than what she might say. The song ended and she said, “That’s pretty – who did it?”
“I did,” I said to her and for a moment, I felt like that little kid I used to be and needing her praise for doing good at something, which is a pretty weird feeling for a guy in his 40s. I told her how I put it together and it felt so good to my heart and soul to hear her say that out of all of the music she’s ever heard me play – including the song I wrote in memory of my brother – it was the best ever and I knew she wasn’t doing that “mom thing” and blowing smoke up my butt. Her only real critique was… there were no lyrics for the song.
And there still isn’t. I tried to write some but that’s not where my talent lies and my friend and former coworker, who is a lyricist, couldn’t come up with anything either. But there is music for which there are no words for when it comes from the heart and soul.
I’m going to listen to it again… because it’s pretty and quite sexy.