Production Log : Ab’s Lament

 

This song started with drum programming in the iPad app called Patterning. This is a really deep drum sequencing app, and I have barely scratched the surface with it. The main thing I wanted to explore with it was the probability layer. With this, you can assign a probability that a given hit will fire or not, adding an element of randomness to the drum track that is hard to achieve with most electronic drum sequencers.

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There are only three drums “loops” in the piece, but because of the probability layer, there is enough variation to keep it from getting totally monotonous.

The idea behind the flute part was to use the natural minor scale but starting from the second hole of the flute. In my notation system, this puts it in “Cm” relative to the flute, but the actual key would depend on the flute, of course. It was largely improvised in just a few takes, though the intro, ending, and main melody were planned ahead of time.

The uke part is just variations on a simple chord progression in two sections, the first going between “Cm” to “Bb” and the second from “Ab69” to “Gm”. The sections alternate but not at exactly delineated intervals. I put these chords in quotes as they are relative to the ukulele.

The question is what uke and flute to use? After trying some different voicings, I settled on the Ono baritone which is tuned in linear Ab currently. This means the matching flute needed to be an F flute since that is the flute key with Ab as the second hole. (You’ve probably just figured out where the name of the track came from, but hold that thought for a bit.)

I’ve discussed the Ono baritone before so I won’t go into detail again here, but this is the first project I’ve recorded with the F flute. It is from flute maker Jadon Smith who does business on Etsy as Nipomo Flutes.

The body of the flute is in flamed oak and has a soft, rather quiet voice. This is the perfect kind of tune for it, with mostly smooth flowing lines and not too many fast note transitions. This flute can get a little grumpy if played too fast, being a little less “responsive” than some others in my collection. But that’s just part of its personality.

Recording started with the uke, improvising between chords and sections as mentioned above. Then the flute was added on top of it. The intro and ending were added towards the end of this process.

With those parts in place, the drum loops were added, and then a chord map “reverse engineered” to plug into Band in a Box to generate some strings/pads and light piano part which were then added back and programmed into the Propellerhead Reason session.

Video production was done in LumaFusion and Wizibel with video shot from Zoom Q8 and stills from iPhone 4s.

What else to talk about? Oh the name. This song started out as “NAF tune 1”. It wasn’t the first tune composed with NAF in mind, but was the only one at the time I had no idea what to call it. It reminds me of a sad Psalm so I started googling around themes of sadness and hit upon “lament”. Around this time I had settled on the key of Ab-minor and googled “Ab lament”. This quickly led to the references shown in the video – that the Jewish people commemorated (in the month of Ab) their salvation from various lamentations of the past and how King David had lamented over the deaths of his friend Abner and son Absalom. So the name is both a musical pun, a reflection of the song’s mood, and a reminder that from time to time it’s ok to reflect and remember what you’ve been saved from.

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