I spent the end of February and most of March 2011 writing and recording music for Messiah College's production of Twelfth Night. It's been almost a year since the show closed, so I figure a post about it is due, right? I participated in 2010's February Album Writing Month (FAWM) and verily did I succeed in its prescribed challenge of writing 14 songs in 28 days, but the work I did for Twelfth Night was much more intense: 16 songs in 14 days! Granted, 3 of those were 30 second interludes, plus I'd had concepts for about half the songs (mostly the Feste tunes) kicking around in my head just waiting to be further developed. Still 13 full length pop/rock songs written and recorded in two weeks is a personal record. I also wrote 1 additional full length tune and 1 more interlude a couple of days after, but those didn't end up getting used in the show.
I was incredibly pleased with the results. If I do say so myself, I wrote some pretty good tunes. The cast nailed the music for the most part, making just the right changes to make the songs their own. Jim Knipple, director of the show and friend o' mine, did a good job integrating the songs into the action and steering the cast, and I think a good time was, in general, had by all - if the Facebook chatter of the cast (who I'd been sort of lightly cyberstalking) is reliable.
The show marks the first time I'd:
- Adapted a piece of text to music,
- Written music for a theatrical production, and
- Written music to be sung by someone other than a member of The MOODS (and all the way across the country, nonetheless)
The first two weeks were the most densely packed. Every minute I wasn't at work, eating, sleeping, or taking care of little Sebbie, I was either writing or recording. I did most of the writing during the day and the laying down of tracks at night (usually after Erin and I had put Sebbie to bed). Sebbie was still sleeping in our bedroom, so I was able to use his room for recording. I holed myself up in his closet for the vocal recording.
I had used Audacity the previous year to record my FAWM album, but made a concerted effort to find a better piece of software for recording. Audacity is great for a free application, but with the time constraints of the show, I needed something that would trim and move tracks more intuitively. I'd used Sony Acid Music Studio in the past but didn't find it particularly intuitive - especially after using Garageband on my sister's Mac. I certainly wasn't in any position to drop the few hundred dollars for ProTools or Ableton, and Logic wasn't an option. So, I did a Google search for "Garageband PC" and found Mixcraft. The features list looked good and the screenshots were easy to comprehend, so I downloaded the 14-day trial and started recording as soon as the install completed. Lo and behold, I finished principal recording before the trial expired!
I did purchase the licensed version for future use (it didn't break the bank at $75), but the ease of use had me sold within the first hour of recording. With Audacity, it would've taken me two nights to record a song with lead and backing vocals, 2 guitars, 1 synth, and some light hand percussion - multiple takes and some light clean up taken into account. With Mixcraft, I was able to lay down 1 lead/2 backing vocals, 2 guitars, 1 synth, 1 bass, percussion, and drum tracks plus several effects layered over here and there. Bass and percussion were composed using the program's virtual instruments, while drums were handled via the packed-in selection of drum loops. Mixcraft's selection of built-in drum loops is actually quite good, despite being mostly geared towards electronica, hip-hop, and beat driven music. At the very least, I was able to utilize enough of the loops to adequately convey the feel of each song.
You can listen to a handful of the songs in the MUSIC section of my site.