8 ways GreenBook can help you create music

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8 ways GreenBook can help you create music • CharlotteBax.nl

Hi folks,

I hope you enjoyed the Orchestral Song series!

Today we’re going to talk about something completely different: my favourite notebook! If you think that’s boring, hear me out for a second more: GreenBook isn’t just any notebook, it is a reuseable notebook with whiteboard pages. Bonus: You can order a stack of music pages to add to your GreenBook!

I’ve created a custom GreenBook with lined, dotted and music pages and I’ve been using it for about a month now – and guess what? I’ll never go back to discardable paper!

How to use the GreenBook for managing your music projects

1 – Sketch Scoring

8 ways GreenBook can help you create music • CharlotteBax.nl

Sketch scoring is an important part of my writing process. Not only do I quickly jot down ideas for melodies and chords progressions, I also write down voicings and arrangements when I’m working on a song.

Before, I always threw away the scratch version, but now I can just erase my writing and use the page for another song. It also comes in handy when I make a mistake – editing my melodies and arrangements is infinitely less messy.

2 – Brainstorming lyrics

Whether I’m looking for rhyming words, synonyms, keywords or writing down some sentences that emerged in my brain, I can easily order them by taking out the pages and grouping them in whichever way seems best to me. And again – when I’ve produced the final song and created a lead sheet, I can wipe the pages clean to use them for a new song.

3 – Creating repertoire lists

As a singer, one of my goals this year is to build a repertoire so I can start performing as a solo artist. I have various lists I can easily manage in my GreenBook: songs that already made the list and need some rehearsing, songs that are interesting to study for vocal technique reasons, and songs that are potentially interesting to add to my set list.

4 – Weekly planner

This one speaks for itself. I add my to do’s such as blogging, rehearsing, project tasks and promotion and write down the hours I’ve worked on it.

5 – Recurring tasks

I have some recurring tasks that come back every day, week or month. In my GreenBook I’ve liste them all and I can easily erase all the checked boxes to use those lists over and over.

6 – Project manager

8 ways GreenBook can help you create music • CharlotteBax.nl

One of my favourite parts of the GreenBook is how you can manage your projects the way YOU like! I have a list of all my current projects, and for every project I have a separate page where I break it down into easy tasks, such as recording, editing and promotion. It is a really structured and efficient way of working.

7 – Energy curve sketching

8 ways GreenBook can help you create music • CharlotteBax.nl

Did you read The Addiction Formula by Friedemann Findeisen? Those whiteboard pages com in really handy when sketching his so-called energy curves. Not only for producing new songs, but also for playing all accompanying parts for a cover song. Without a conductor, you need som way to make sure all dynamics are the same in all the right places.

8 – Goals

I’ve listed all my goals in the GreenBook. Not only my monthly an yearly goals, but also what I want to accomplish in 5 years, or during my lifetime, such as releasing the Platonica concept album I dream of and working together with certain artists.

GreenBook features

Shortly summarized, these are the features that make the GreenBook such an incredibly helpful resource to help you managing your musical career:

  • Wipe pages clean and use them over and over again;
  • Take pages out and rearrange them;
  • Customize your GreenBook with blank, lined, grid, dotted or music pages;
  • Available in A5 and A4;
  • Comes with wiping cloth and refillable whiteboard pen.

Where to buy?

8 ways GreenBook can help you create music • CharlotteBax.nl

You can buy a GreenBook in the Dutch webshop of A Green Story. They don’t ship internationally yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as they expand their horizon!

   Click to go to A Green Story

This blog post is written in association with A Green Story. I’ve received free music pages.

Support me on Patreon!

How to create an orchestral song #3: Putting it all together

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How to create an ochestral song #1: Putting it all together • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey guys,

Today is the third and last part of the how to create an orchestral song series! I hope you’re really fired up now, because today is the day we will put it all together: your musical choices, your preferred ensemble and of course the ways you want to shape those chord progressions into a beautiful orchestral accompaniment.

Missed an episode?

  1. Prepping your song: Basic tools you need, how to analyze and prep your song and choosing your ensemble.
  2. Voicings, harmony and polyphony: Different techniques to arrange your basic chords into something bigger
  3. Putting it all together: After theory it’s hands-on time! I present you my action plan for producing this baby.

Don’t forget to download the awesome checklist I’ve created for you!

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

Creating an orchestral template

The first step you need to take is to open a new and empty project in your DAW, add some MIDI tracks and load all the virtual instruments you need. This is your very personal orchestra!

When you load your instruments, be sure to pick the “master keyswitch” version of every instrument. This way you don’t have to add all the different playing styles manually. Don’t be surprised if opening and loading your project takes at least half an hour afterwards – that just comes with high quality samples and is totally worth it. Whenever you want to work on this particular project, just open the file and go make a pot of tea or something.

I find it easy to work with multi-timbral tracks and load every orchestra section on a different track. They told me it saves CPU. (I’m not a computer geek. I’m a musician.) When you use this trick, assign every instrument in a section to a different MIDI channel, otherwise they will all play every part.

Recording and editing the song basics

Before actually starting to orchestrate your song, you actually need to record the song basics. Start with your usual guitar or piano part and then add all the vocals. Edit them the way you’re used to (cutting off startings and endings, a bit of tuning here and there, etc). Also immediately record all additional vocals, so you know immediately if an orchestral part goes well with it.

Creating all orchestral parts

Just take it section by section. Sometimes I just use strings, other times I add woodwinds or brass. A great way is to play the complete voicings on your MIDI piano, copy it to every instrument in that particular section, mute all notes and then unmute every melodic line for the right instrument.

Finishing touches

Now you have all MIDI parts recorded, let’s make them sound their very best.

Key switches

First things first: add keyswitches. These are notes outside the instrument range that change the playing style. Very handy if you want staccato or legato parts, or bowed versus pizzicato phases.

When opening your virtual instrument plugin, you should see a list of all keyswitches and their effects.

Velocity

Then, check all parts for velocity. Make sure musical phrases are all in the same velocity range and add or enhance accents.

Humanizing

If you didn’t record the parts with a MIDI keyboard, but added all notes with your mouse, this is a good time to select every damn note and humanize the position. I strongly advise against humanizing velocity, because that ruins your hard work from the previous step.

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

Mixing

The separate parts are done now! Time for some light mixing. Pan all instrument sections globally to their normal position in a live orchestra.

Then add a nice reverb. I prefer one that’s impulse response based, because it is the easiest to actually work with. More dry signal for instruments in the front, more wet signal for instruments in the back. It’s not difficult at all!

Don’t forget to also mix in your vocals and piano/guitar part, if that was’t only for sketch and support for playing the orchestral parts.

Here you are, a very great sounding demo of your first orchestral song!

If you’re really good with the technical details and mixing is your strong suit, you can take it from here yourself. Otherwise, go find a nice mixing engineer to team up with to make it sound perfect (and to make a new friend!).

Want more? Become my Patron and get access to the complete “How to create an orchestral song” ebook with additional content, extra worksheets, tables, and examples.

Download the complete guide to how to create an orchestral song • CharlotteBax.nl

 

How to create an orchestral song #2: Voicings, harmony and polyphony

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How to create an ochestral song #1: Voicings, harmony & polyphony • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey guys,

In this second part of how to create an orchestral song, I will show you tons of ways to transform your basic guitar or piano chords to interesting harmonizations.

Did you miss a part of these series? Here you can find everything at a glance:

  1. Prepping your song: Basic tools you need, how to analyze and prep your song and choosing your ensemble.
  2. Voicings, harmony and polyphony: Different techniques to arrange your basic chords into something bigger
  3. Putting it all together: After theory it’s hands-on time! I present you my action plan for producing this baby. (Online 27/4)

Don’t forget to download the awesome checklist I’ve created for you!

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

The orchestration process in a nutshell

What you will be doing through the entire orchestration process is basically the following:

  • Pick a section of your song;
  • Decide on the ensemble section you will be using for the basic accompaniment;
  • Pick a voicing;
  • Pick a rhythmic form to execute said voicing;
  • Repeat to thicken your arrangement;
  • Add additional polyphonic elements if applicable.

As a general rule of thumb the verses are more straightforward and simple, choruses are fatter and more elaborate. Try not to give everything away in the first time a section appears, but build it up to a climax or anticlimax.

Picking a voicing

Chords played in a higher range sound lighter than chords played in a lower range. However, if you take your chords too low, they sound muddy and incomprehensible. Based on the natural harmonic series, you can simplify your chord to a power chord or just a unison octave.

If you’re self-accompanying on piano, chances are you already do this instinctively, to keep your songs bright and clear. Great job! Now remember this when you start to write your orchestral harmonies. Based on this principle I made a small list of voicings that ALWAYS work.

Of course, this is not a set of rules – experiment and find your own signature voicings!

High & narrow

Played in a high range and with the chord notes as close together as possible. This sounds really light and fragile. I usually pair this with a bass note in a medium range, to keep it cohesive.

Medium & narrow

Played in a medium range and with the chord notes as close together as possible. This is a really straightforward way of accompaniment. I use it almost all the time when I’m singing and playing the piano simultaneously. On the piano I pair this most of the time with unison octaves or power chords in my left hand.

Medium & wide

Played in a medium range with notes spaced apart. Not exactly a really convenient way of playing the piano, but when used in strings or brass, it sounds quite epic.

Low & wide

Basically the same as above, but in a lower range. This has more body and goes very well with strong voices.

Power chords

Power chords are chords without a third. I use them as a pianist quite often in my left hand as bass. These are really convenient as a filler to give an arrangement instantly more body.

Doubling

When you’re in a really low range, even power chords can start to sound muddy. To give my bass some extra body, I use octave doubling quite a lot. When used in very high ranges, it has a little spooky effect, especially when used with string harmonics. Octave doubling is also very useful in flute/piccolo parts to make them stand out more.

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

Rhythmic form

It’s kinda boring if you pick a nice voicing and just play whole notes, as some kind of pad. Sometimes it’s xactly what you need, but more often it’ not. Time to make it more interesting!

The quickest and easiest way is to add some kind of rhythmic component to your voicing. I’ve listed a few for you:

Pad

As described above, this is a very basic way to add an orchestral touch to your song: just let some section (usually strings) play long notes and you immediately crate some romance or drama.

Pulsating pad

This is one of my personal favourites: just rhythmic pulsating of the same notes, usually in eighths. Harmonically it is very calm, but because of the repeating staccato notes, it still has some kind of drive.

Arpeggios

Instead of playing all notes at once, try arpeggiating them, one after the other. It gives some sense of movement, even with only one instrument. It’s even more fun to layer arpeggios, this can create a very cool effect!

Rhythmic motifs

Instead of just a pulsating pad, or a simple arpeggio, you can also create small, repeating rhythmic motifs. A bit like a guitar riff. You can let all the instruments in a section play the same (or a similar) motif, but you can also mix it up to create something that sounds more polyrhythmic.

After creating the basic orchestral accompaniment, you can fill in the details by adding ornamentation, chord additions, and countermelodies.

Of course you are not bound to just using one method, or only the ways shown above. Combine, freestyle, customize and find your own signature sound! This is just a starting point.

Download my super-actionable checklist for an orchestral song to transform your song into something super epic!

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

How to create an orchestral song #1: Prepping your song

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How to create an ochestral song #1: Prepping your song • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey guys,

I’m really excited because this is the first part of a mini series on how to create an orchestral song! Writing a full-bodied orchestral accompaniment for your song isn’t difficult at all, and in the upcoming couple of blog posts I will teach you some of the basic skills you need:

  1. Prepping your song: Basic tools you need, how to analyze and prep your song and choosing your ensemble.
  2. Voicings, harmony and polyphony: Different techniques to arrange your basic chords into something bigger.
  3. Putting it all together: After theory it’s hands-on time! I present you my action plan for producing this baby. (Online 27/4)

And of course I have created a very practical and actionable checklist for you to go with it all!

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

 

First things first, I want to make two things clear:

  1. You need a great song to start with.
    Make sure it is a good song with just a melody and a basic accompaniment on piano or guitar. Elaborate orchestration can make a bad song sound fancy, but it can’t make a bad song suddenly become great.
  2. You don’t need an entire orchestra to get an orchestral sound.
    Not only are there excellent digital replacements for actual orchestras consisting of 60+ human beings (imagine how expensive THAT would be), I mean this also in the sense that you don’t need all the instruments to play at once, or even make an appearance in a song. Maybe you only need strings and some woodwinds, for example.

Tools you need

Your voice

Your instrument of choice

These two go hand in hand. Not only do you need these to create the basic outlines of your song, of course you will record the final vocals and probably your favourite accompanying instrument will still play a role.

DAW

A Digital Audio Workstation is just a really long term for your favourite software to produce your songs. Mine is Logic Pro, but if you use something different, that totally okay too! However, it needs to be able to do the following things:

  • Recording audio
  • Recording MIDI
  • Editing your audio and MIDI takes
  • Compatibility with some high quality virtual instruments
  • Compatibility with plugins for reverb, equalizing, etc

If you’re using Logic or Cubase, then you’re totally fine. I know that Pro Tools has really great recording and editing options, but I have no experience with their MIDI processing and compatibility with virtual instruments. I do not dare to give a verdict there. However, your average free recording software doesn’t really cut it at this stage.

MIDI keyboard

This is essential if you want to create your orchestral parts quickly. I once used the point and click method, but that takes ages. Additional benefit is that you can skip the step of humanizing your parts, because they’re already played by a human.

Virtual instruments

For a great orchestral sound, you need a realistic orchestral library. Virtual instruments are a gift from the gods when it comes to orchestral music for broke composers. Nowadays, the libraries are of such high quality that in the hands of a pro, you can’t distinguish samples from a recorded score.

My personal favourite is East West, but others swear by Native Instruments or Vienna.

Basic home studio setup

I assume you’re reading this, because you already are a songwriter, know how to write and produce a basic song, and now want to take it to the next level.

However, for those of you who aren’t: You can’t produce a song without some form of studio. It doesn’t have to be big and super-duper-professional, but I recommend the following basics:

  • Computer with above mentioned DAW and virtual instruments
  • Audio interface
  • High quality monitor speakers
  • Studio headphones
  • Cables to connect everything, including instruments, microphones and MIDI keyboard.

Now you’re all ready and set, let’s get to work! (Finally!)

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

Analyzing your song

To create a suitable orchestration that actually makes sense, you need to analyze your song a bit. No, you don’t need to do a full chord function analysis. That’s really too much of a hassle and not necessary at all. Howver, you DO need to hav a clear view of the following:

Character

What is your song about? What is the subject? What is the feeling of the song? A song about a walk in the woods needs a totally different ensemble than a song about anger.

Song structure

What parts does your song have? How many verses, how many choruses? Do you have an intro and an outro, a bridge or an instrumental solo part? Write them all down in order. This will help you to build up the intensity of your orchestration.

Chords

What chord progressions do you use for all those parts? Write down the entire chord structure of the song, so it’s easier for you to create all the voicings and separate parts.

Choosing your ensemble

A traditional orchestra basically has 4 sections: woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings (I named them in this particular order because that is the order on a written score. Lots of pop songs use strings to add a classical touch. Brass is also used a lot, but more in a bigband setting than in an orchestral way. A lot of big classical pieces also have a choir added to their orchestra.

Besides these traditional parts of an orchestra, there are two sections I always consider when creating an orchestral song: band (electric bass, guitars, drums, keys) and exotic instruments that you don’t find in your regular symphony orchestra, such as theremin, or celtic or asian instruments. Yes, these do fit in categories such as woodwinds or percussion, but I group them apart because of their particular sound.

You don’t need the entire orchestra when writing an orchestral song, as I said. You can choose certain sections, or even parts of sections, for example strings, low brass and a xylophone. Or all woodwinds except the flutes, plus your acoustic guitar. Get creative!

Want to get hands-on already? Download my super-practical step by step guide to creating an orchestral song to transform your basic song to a fully orchestrated version!

Download your orchestral song checklist and get started right away! • CharlotteBax.nl

How I reinvented myself as a musicpreneur after a burnout + what you can learn from it

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How I reinvented myself as a musicpreneurs after a burnout + what you can learn from it! • CharlotteBax.nl

Hey guys, today I wanted to talk about something more personal: why I’m *not* a typical composer or songwriter that works 10 hours a day in a studio to produce, produce, produce. How I started to think my own thoughts and making my own decisions, based on what I love to do and not on what you’re supposed to according to societal norms. How I radically changed my view on “making a living” after a burnout. And of course there’ll be some takeaway for you! 🙂

How it all began

During high school, you are pushed to think about what you want to do with your life. How do you want to earn your money? What are your talents? As a teenager, I discovered I loved writing music, and when I discovered you could actually study composition I could make my choice very quickly!

I was raised as a good kid that learned to value your talents and do something with them. It was only logical to go to college, graduate and become independent from my parents. The West European levels of feminism, emancipation and equality made it all a no-brainer: everyone goes to college after high school, everyone is raised to get a job and make money him- or herself.

So, naturally, I wanted to become a musician that earned her money making music. Not a performing artist, because everyone downloads all the songs illegally. No money there. I learned that very quickly. Because my teachers at the time were all over the growing gaming scene, I wanted to become a composer of applied music: in films, games, multimedia artwork.

But, as you can obviously see – that didn’t work out. Something else did, though!

Burnout

After 7 years of studying, I finally graduated as a composer. Because I wanted to learn something more than just making music, I became a member the board of my student association as the secretary during my last year at college. Half a year after graduating I got a burnout. Looking back, I was using up my last reserves and dragging myself through life for the last 3 years. At least.

Firstly, I only got treated by a psychosomatic physiotherapist: she helped me to relax, so all the muscle and joint pain caused by the built up stress would go away. We hoped that my tiredness would disappear with the pain. In summer, I enjoyed a hiking trip to Norway. It seemed like everything was okay. Until it hit me again in October. I got those chronic fatigue-like symptoms all over again: I couldn’t think or concentrate, I could only do small, mindless tasks and chores and even a short trip to buy some lunch would result in major tiredness and the need to take a long nap.

i identified myself as a spooniepreneur: someone with very limited energy due to a chronic condition (in my case a burnout), that still wanted to put a part of that energy in creating a successful business.

Who am I?

Because of the perseverance of my fatigue and absence of physical failure, the doctor sent me to the psychologist. We discovered that burnout is often caused in people with ADHD and/or autism because of overstimulation. Where normal people automatically and subconsciously filter all stimuli as important or not important, people with a sensory processing disorder don’t have that filter, so they have to consciously deal with every stimulus that enters the brain, which takes up a lot of energy.

This meant I had to drastically alter my lifestyle and the way I work, to make sure I could function as a normal human being in this increasingly hectic, stressful, noisy and busy society. I started to ask myself a lot of questions:

  • What are my talents?

  • What are my weaknesses?

  • What are the parts of music business that I love?

  • What are the parts of music business that cause overstimulation?

  • How can I simplify my life to avoid overstimulation and burnout?

  • How can I create a business in which I optimally use my talents, but don’t get overstimulated?

  • What thoughts are holding me back right now?

 

What really helped me were some American entrepreneurship bloggers, in particular Melyssa Griffin and Regina Anaejionu. They showed me there are lots of new possibilities in this digital era – I didn’t have to settle for some traditional way of making a living that didn’t suit my situation.

To realize that – and to draft plans on how to make digital entrepreneurship work for me – was incredibly uplifting.

Create the best working conditions for YOU

I won’t bore the hell out of you with all the answers to the questions above. But I can tell you from experience, that when you answer these questions for yourself – and then I mean answering them completely honest, no holding back – it is a great step to creating the best working conditions in which you will definitely thrive.

You just need to have the guts to do these three things:

  1. Be honest with yourself;

  2. Don’t give a damn about what other people think;

  3. Make radical changes that make life work for YOU, not the other way round.

 

We live in a world where traditional ways of working and living get less and less important, especially in the creative sector. With the coming of the internet, you have tons of new possibilities to make a living in a way that suits YOU. I’ve listed a few already some times ago:

   5 different streams of income for musicians

Or you can check out my epic free ebook:

   14 ways of making a living online as a musicpreneur

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