Zooey

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

My Project’s Impact

Unlike most people who have taken on the design project, I wasn’t trying to make a physical object and therefore my creation serves a different purpose to its users.

I can personally vouch for music’s incredible healing power. Whatever emotion I’m feeling, being able to pull up a song that affirms what I’m processing is very reassuring. In this case, my song “slim chance” is about relationships and being uncertain about where you stand with someone romantically.

I remember sending the lyrics to one of my girlfriends after I had started this project. She read them and wrote back telling me how relatable they felt to her, and that many girls would feel similarly. This got me really excited because it meant that not only did I have the opportunity to create something high-quality and nice-sounding, I also was making a song that other girls could play when they felt romantic confusion.

I’m really excited to see what happens when I finally publish it come January. That will be the true teller of what people are able to get out of my work. Until then!

Protected: The Audio Process Behind “Slim Chance”

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Process Behind my Album Art Design

Here’s a breakdown of how I made this bad boi:

The whole process started from me painting some watercolor on paper. I went with my favorite shades of pastel colors and used my fingers to blend them together into a wispy, abstract scene. This is the technique I use when I paint nature during the summer and is 100% Bob Ross-Inspired.

Starting Watercolor

I took photographs of the painting, then (with the help of Mr. Griffin) popped her into photoshop to enhance some of the colors and give it more contrast:

Color-Enhanced Version

The finished version was uploaded to the iPad, where I started playing around with drawing tools. My first idea was to incorporate some other images. The two images below are pngs I created of google searches. The phrases “how do I” and “why do I” were chosen because I feel that one of the worst (yet most common) ways I deal with my insecurities or concerns is by consulting the internet.

“how do I” google search png

“why do I” google search pngWhen I added these two pngs in, I accidentally blended/smeared the side of one of them, yet after considering my mistake, I realized I quite liked how the search tab seemed to blend into the watercolor. SO, I kept it (truly a bob ross “happy accident” moment).

Blended pngs with watercolor

I wanted some visual of myself on the cover, as I think album art without people seems too impersonal. The most recent image I had access to was a photo my dad took of me in the snow. I found it to be suitable because I was

  1. looking at the camera seriously (mom said it was a good dramatic far-away album look)
  2. I’m listening to music in the photo (a true pastime and joy of mine)
  3. I wanted to represent myself as close to the present as possible

Black and white photo that my dad took of me

The first thing I tried was sketching myself with the iPad pen tools. I didn’t love the look, but here’s an image of it below:

Initial Idea

I decided that incorporating the photo looked better and gave it more of a personal connection. To do this, I first turned the watercolor into a black and white hue. As lovely as the colors looked, I felt like it was a little too joyful and childish. Also, a black and white photo of me against a colorful background made it look like I had died…shrine-like???

After the colors were all sorted, I started smudging out parts of the original image that I didn’t want to include ( all the focus needed to be on ME hehehe). I didn’t want a stark contrast between the watercolor photo and my photo so I kept the harsh blending to a minimum. This allowed the image to fade into the background. When I was done, I felt it needed a bit of color, so I chose one of my favorite blue hues and added some whips with the iPad “smoke” tool. Put my name in the corner and TADA:

Final Idea

Back in Business, Baby!!

Just when we thought it wasn’t going to happen…RECORDING SESSION NUMERO DOS IS BOOKED!!

Inspiration from Backing Tracks of Famous Songs

After beginning this process of backing track construction, songs became so much more intricate to me:

Defining Success

Complete Summary of Making the Track for “Slim Chance” (D&P)

  1. Created a slow, organ-backed beat after meeting with Mr. Handy 
    • Based instruments  off of the songs “LOYAL” by Drake ft. PartyNextDoor and “Girls need Love” by Summer Walker ft. Drake
    • The beat components were very chill, RnB-inspired.
    • I did a test recording for the first two measures and played it for my mom, who really like it.
  2. Experimented with making my song acoustic w/ukulele 
    • I wanted to make sure I had considered all angles of making this song
    • I had originally written this song on ukulele, so I thought playing and singing at the same time would give my recording more emotion.
    • I recorded at home using my USB microphone
    • At school, I worked on combining parts of different takes in order to create on seamless vocal part.
    • I played it for my mom, but she said it didn’t have the chill feeling that my GarageBand beat did.
    • In the end, the inconsistent ukulele strumming tempo mixed with my vocals didn’t sound as good as the GarageBand-generated track so I abandoned this idea.
  3. Decided to go back to organ beat idea and started working on it 
    • I built the frame-work and then met with Mr. Handy
    • He showed me how to make it more interesting to listen to
    • I went home and used his feedback to build a second draft, adding variation and completing the beat for the entire length of my song
    • I sent it to my friend, Bea, who said she really liked it. However, she compared it to music you’d hear in a spa. This is when I knew I had to UP THE TEMPO
    • I made it significantly faster and ended up liking it better
  4. Met with Mr. Handy and started looking into making it more interesting to listen to
    • Grid method: Introducing a new element every couple measures
    • Taking out certain instruments at certain places to give the listener a break
    • Taking some unique elements I’d added (piano riffs, air-release, etc) and spreading them throughout the song
    • He gave me some mixing headphones to take home so I could get desired track levels
  5. Once Mr. Long notified me about the recording date, I finalized my beat at home and sent it!

 

Reflecting on the first audio clips

After my recording session last week, Mr. Long sent me the six recording we made. I listened to each and took notes on what I liked or what I wanted to improve.

Screenshot of my impressions of the first recording session

My thoughts were as follows:

Take 1 LVU87:

– a little hesitant/shaky(it’s my first time getting used to mic)

– notes are mostly there…

-too slide-y

Take 2LVU87:

– BAD HAHAHAH BUT THIS WAS BECAUSE THE TWO TRACKS WERE PLAYED ON TOP OF EACH OTHER

Take 3 LVU87:

– don’t run on “old”, be neater on “tryna get”

– just super slide-ey

Take 4 LVU87:

– beginning is GOOD

– “remold” is more timid but not bad!

– “chasing you” is a little off

  could compete with no. 6!!

Take 5 LVU87:

– Good, but super slide-ey

– DON’t “run” on the “eXpLAin” part

– My second chorus bit was good

Take 6 LVU87:

-“back” is a bit flat

-“emotionally” is flat

– Beginning is solid (remold was good)

– Chorus needs more enunciation

– DON’t run on the word “lust” or “doomed”

– I like the “ahahah” at end, cleanest ending

– Good job keeping the “lonely” not slide-ey

 

Looking at my remarks, a couple things stand out. First off, the quality of the vocal got better over time. Mr. Long suggested this was because I was better warmed-up. I was actually pretty happy with the last take (take 6). Secondly, I need to be careful about sliding around with my notes. It’s probably a product of becoming a comfortable with the song and getting lost in the emotion. Nonetheless, it makes stuff sound SLOPPY—need to reign it in. Same with runs. They can be really cool but one in every phrase is a bit much…

Email to Mr. Long

With these corrections in mind, I emailed Mr. Long to schedule our next recording session! Excited!!!

 

 

I RECORDED (Day 1)

Hi!! Very excited about the things I’ll cover in this post, as it has been A LONG time coming.

As the title shows, I was able to get into the ISB studio and begin the recording process. This in its self was such a big milestone, because recording always felt like this far-away, ungraspable goal. Bot today, I reached the point of being able to RECORD. Everything I’ve done with this project has lead up to today, and that alone made the session feel like a release.

Let’s talk about how I even got access to a study: Mr. Long came THROUGH for me. We made plans over email and he got back to me last weekend with a recording time. This got me very excited, but also was a bit of a wake-up call. Taking another listen to my backing track draft, I internalized the fact that I’d be ACTUALLY SINGING on top of this beat, which gave me greater incentive to make it groovy. I sent Mr. Long the file and hoped that it would all go well.

Email Exchange

My reply

When 3:30pm came along, I headed up to the studio—now functional and looking more lively than when we popped in a few months earlier. As I walked through the doorway, I bumped into a man who introduced himself as Mr. Dawson. Guiding me into the recording room, he pointed to two microphones on stands. “Are you screaming or doing light angelic stuff?”, he asked. After telling him that I definitely fell into the light, angelic category, he gestured to a light grey mic. “You get to use this one, the other scream-one is what Michael Jackson used to record”.

After I’d spent a good minute taking everything in, Mr. Long walked in. He introduced himself, then added “this the mic you’re going with? Believe it or not, it $5,000 USD, I almost dropped it playing around today”.  GOSH, the technology I’ve got access to here…MAN.

Mr. Wang, the studio technician entered the scene and hooked all the wires up. By now I was feeling pretty nervous—all of the people in the studio were strangers to me, and yet in a few minutes, I’d have to sing for them. I tried to get my mind away from that part and instead concentrate on getting into the right mood. To do this, I brought myself back to the memories that inspired my song in the first place. Before I knew it, IT WAS TIME.

studio!!

The tech started my track and I was like “Zooey, just sing. You’ll look even worse if you do nothing”. So I did just that, and was surprised at how easily I could block out my surroundings. It probably helped that the Uber-expensive microphone makes anyone sound like Beyonce. That “groovy” backing track I mentioned earlier was also a nice plus, as I found myself dancing to the beat.

in da studio baby (ft. 5k mic)

We did around 5 takes and then listened back to them. This was definitely the most uncomfortable part of the whole experience. I can deal with my mistakes, but having others listen to them too…that was really hard. However, it forced me to listen to the whole “take”, which in turn allowed me to find solutions to parts I disliked.

Over all, considering I have no prior studio experience, I’d say I did a good job. Can’t wait to continue doing some recording…it’s coming together!!

Project Update: November 9th

Since I last posted, I’ve spent some time with Mr. Griffin brainstorming album art ideas. Halloween weekend, my brother helped me take some photos on our swing set.  I liked the concept of motion and we ended up with a really cool shot.

I brought the photos in and played around with the iPad drawing tool during my project block. In the end, I abandoned the project because I felt like the photo, while cool, was not the look I was going for. Below I have included photos of my experimentation.

iPad Edits

Closeup

From the beginning, I’ve always loved the concept of floating. I started falling in love with this idea after doing this past-life regression meditation HAHAHH. The guide asked participants to imagine themselves lying in a beautiful garden. With every breath, we were to envision it flowing through the body as pure light. Im my mind, the vision of floating above nature with light coursing through my veins was super impactful. Long story short, that’s what I’m going to try and go for.

 

Back in Middle School, one of my friends made themselves hover by using stools and photoshop. It sounded relatively easy to do, and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only person who had wanted to make themselves float in a photo. Thus, I went to YouTube and quarried “How to make yourself float in a photo”. Surprise surprise, there were videos galore. Below I have included a screenshot from the video I decided to watch:

Screenshot from instructional video

Essentially, I’d set up a camera and do the following:

  1. Lock the focus so each shot is identically framed
  2. Put a stool in the frame
  3. Take a variety of shots on the stool, posing in float-like positions
  4. Take shots of the background without stool and without me

Then I’d go into photoshop and:

  1. Layer the best photo of me on the stool with a photo of the blank background
  2. Edit out the stool
  3. Recolor any areas of myself that had to be photoshopped out
  4. Filter the photo
  5. Voila, I float!

But first, I needed a good camera. SO I headed to the art office and arranged to borrow a camera with an adjustable focus and a tripod. I plan to pick it up on Friday so I can take photos over the weekend. Very excited to see the results!!

ALSO, I’ve been communicating with Mr. Long (music guy) about recording. We’ve had some solid email exchanges and plan to meet sometime this week after school to start looking at the process! Super pumped.

Part of Email Exchange w/ Mr. Long

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