It goes without saying that physical distancing has left many of us with lots of time on our hands. It’s a great opportunity to explore our interests and try new things, but let’s be honest here. We’re in a pandemic. It’s not exactly our prime time, and not all of us have the headspace to be ultra-productive. There is NOTHING wrong with that. Our job right now is to survive. That’s it.
So how have I been doing that?
Music. A lot of music. I’ve found that working on creative projects has given me a purpose as well as a space to unwind. This situation can be really stressful, so it’s been important for me to find ways to decompress.
One of my favourite hobbies is making a cappella covers of my favourite songs. I am by no means a singer, but I find the writing, recording, and editing process to be really fun and relaxing (not to mention time-consuming!). Here’s how I do it:
First, I choose a song. It’s important to find one that I like so that I don’t get bored of it in the process. I also make sure that I can actually sing it. It’s can be disappointing to start a new cover, only to realize that it goes too high or too low! Some of my recent ones have been We Know the Way from Moana and Fantasy by Earth, Wind & Fire (I’ll link them below!)
The toughest part is next: I have to find all of the chords and write out my arrangement. Depending on my level of motivation and the complexity of the song, I sometimes look the up chords online. Some may say that this is “cheating”, but who cares?! I just use the tools that are available! This step is usually messy because I’m a beginner in arranging and I do it all by hand, so there’s definitely a lot of erasing and restarting. I’m inspired by people like my dad (a professional musician/arranger) who can write out creative arrangements in his sleep! I’m nowhere close to being that comfortable, so this step still feels like “mental gymnastics”. I’m happy to keep working hard, though, because it gets a little easier every time!
The next part is the most fun: recording and editing! I’m really fortunate to come from a musical family, so we have a room that’s set up with recording equipment. People always ask me what program I use, and the answer is… GarageBand! It’s very simple, but you don’t necessarily need expensive software to make music. Sometimes, an easy and user-friendly program is all it takes.
I learned early on that it’s best to start by recording the base track and making sure it’s in tune. This way, it serves as a pitch reference for all of the other tracks. After that, I layer up the voices, from lowest to highest. Once I’ve recorded all the parts, it’s time for post-production editing. I listen first for unwanted background noises and do what I can to remove them. Once I’m satisfied, I do some more precise editing by fiddling with the panning, volume, reverb, EQ, and special effects. All of these modifications help with the overall listening experience by making the music more dynamic.
One of the most difficult aspects of this process is knowing when to stop. I have very high standards, so it’s tough to tell myself that the project is done when I can still hear flaws. There always comes a time, though, when the work/result trade-off is no longer worthwhile. Allow me to explain. At the beginning, I can do a very small amount of editing and hear a monumental difference. As the process goes on, every bit of editing leads to smaller and smaller changes. There’s no such thing as perfect, so I could eventually end up spending four hours on the same two seconds (believe me, I’ve been there), but at a point, I just have to step back and say, “I’ve done what I can”. This means that the final product isn’t always my favourite project ever or my most successful one, but I think it’s still an accomplishment because I set out to do something and I saw it through.
Most recent video: https://youtu.be/Wyq4-Oxdd94
We Know the Way from Moana: https://youtu.be/5pMH_-V0Vw8
Whatever it may be, it’s really important for all of us to find something that makes us happy. It could be an art, a sport, a craft, a TV show, a book, or anything else that makes us smile. I hope you’re all finding something to get you through this difficult time!