When I Need Your Love

Audio Recording, Composition, Education, Guitar, Songwriting 1 Comment

So… congratulate me!!

I just finished the second of two Master Certificate programs at Berklee College of Music’s online campus – Berkleemusic. The first was Theory, Harmony and Ear Training, completed last term. This one was Arranging & Orchestration, where I just posted the last scoring assignment for Film Scoring 101. I’ll be re-doing that submission in SONAR with EWQLSO before posting it here. Right now it’s still being exported from Sibelius, which is great for writing but not so great for rendered audio.

However, the final project for Brad Hatfield’s Songwriting for Film & TV came out rather well, I think. It’s a tune called When I Need Your Love and works as a replacement for Can’t Hurry Love, which plays over a montage in the film Alchemy (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m referring to).

Thanks to my brother Tony for providing the May-style guitar work in the interlude, and to Ken Daniel for providing drum fills that made the drum track come to life. Also thanks to Brad for suggesting the bells (actually, he meant glock, which I interpreted as tubular bells… but it works).

When I Need Your Love – MP3 – VB – 4.8MB – 2:38 min.

Have a great summer everyone!

My Heart Still Needs You

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Week 2 of Songwriting (see previous post) and we’re still pushing forward.

This week’s real-world assignment was to rewrite a temp song (i.e., something that’s already been recorded, published, released, etc.) that’s been used in a movie or TV show for screening purposes. It’s a torch song being played at a high school reunion (by a DJ) and needs to have a musical break for dialog. The licensing would cost too much to use the original, so an original ‘sound-alike’ needs to be written… in three days.

There are rules and techniques associated with this, but I won’t bore you. Basically, the idea is to create something original that’s as close to the original temp song as possible, without skirting copyright issues, etc. Except for the lyrics, melody and vocal track, of course, this was cobbled together quickly from various loops I found here and there – resequenced, recorded, mixed, etc.

I’ll leave it to you folks to guess which tune I cloned here. It may be obvious, but perhaps not quite as obvious as you think, because the IMaj7-VIm7-IIm7-V79 chord progression used in this tune is pretty popular for standards. Maybe this’ll become one of them.

My Heart Still Needs You – MP3 – 128kBps – 3.7MB – 3:51 min.


My Heart Still Needs You

One day you found my empty heart
(and) You filled it with your
Love from the very start.
Then you left me and I don’know why.
My lips want to say good-bye.
But my heart still needs you …

Your laugh still taunts me every day.
I wake at night – you’re gone.
And that ache won’t go away.
Darlin’ you gotta know
My hands want to let you go.
But my heart still needs you …

One day you held this empty heart.
And filled it with your smilin’ love.
Now it’s torn apart. You’re gone and I
Don’t know why.
My head don’t wanna wonder why.
But my heart still needs you

Those nights above that foggy bay
Those quiet little games we’d play
I’ve tried to put that all away
And every time I think it’s gone
It all comes back like a favorite song
What can I do – my heart still wants you.

Copyright © 2011 Ron Romano

Here’s a hint.

Fold Over Me

Audio Recording, Composition, Performance, Songwriting, Video 3 Comments

Hopefully I completed my first Master Certificate (in Theory, Harmony and Ear Training) at Berkleemusic last week (update: with a 4.0 average! …uh-huh… uh-huh…). Still waiting for the final grade to be posted for my last class. It was a lot of work, but it sure doesn’t seem like it’s been over two years.

This term should be the last one for the second Master Certificate (Arranging and Orchestration). Both classes look to be extremely interesting: Film Scoring 101 and Songwriting for Film and TV.

We hit the ground running in Songwriting – the video below is my submission for the first week’s assignment, which was to write a song for a snippet of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which I’ve never watched. All week I kicked around ideas but nothing really gelled. Then yesterday on the way home from band rehearsal a bit of a verse melody came to me, then some bridge melody and, before I got home, I pretty much had the whole tune composed in my head. Pardon the ugly vocal – I’m fighting a really nasty cough right now. If this thing lives beyond schoolwork, hopefully I can get my daughter to sing it.

This was done in SONAR 8.5 Producer (32-bit version) since QuickTime doesn’t yet support 64-bit and I didn’t install a 32-bit version of SONAR X1 (which, so far, really hasn’t even been worth the nominal $99 I spent for the upgrade). Drums are Session Drummer 3; guitar and piano are both EastWest PLAY instruments, played/sequenced by me; bass is me, live. I think I got the audio file a few seconds too long (whiteout at the end). Hey – it’s my first time ever trying this…

Video is below (just click). Enjoy.
Read the rest…

Orchestration II Final – Indiana Fields

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Okay, so while there’s a good deal of relief and satisfaction after having completed a (second) 12-week course in Orchestration, I’m genuinely bummed as well. I wouldn’t mind if this course had gone on for another 12… or even 24 weeks. It’s been that interesting / challenging / rewarding. Hats off to Berklee and Ben Newhouse for having developed a really great program and an excellent online course. I highly recommend it.

This is by far the longest piece I’ve composed, let alone actually scored in its entirety. It’s for medium-sized orchestra and is sequenced entirely using Cakewalk SONAR 8.5 and the Kontakt sampling synthesizer, using Native Instruments’ version of the Vienna Symphonic Library. I upgraded to Kontakt 4 during development, so there’s a mix of sounds from both versions 3.5 and 4. I like how the orchestration for this turned out, but getting the individual instrument and overall orchestra sound I ‘hear’ (e.g., in other similar compositions, like film score CDs and, especially, the works of some of my classmates) continues to elude me. Comments, suggestions welcome.

As I listen to the final version as it was submitted, and its predecessor, I’m finding I like parts of the latter better…

Indiana Fields ‘Beta’ – MP3 – 192kBps – 6.2MB – 4:30 min.

Final submission:

Indiana Fields – MP3 – 192kBps – 6.5MB – 4:30 min.
Indiana Fields – Full Concert Score

For the truly masochistic, here’s a scratch recording of this tune in its original form:

Indiana Fields, 1943 – MP3 – 192kBps – 5.5MB – 4:00 min.

Long Weekend – Time to catch up!

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Got a chance to catch my breath this weekend. The extra day off is much appreciated. Lots been going on here. I finally got my music ‘studio’ about 99% finished, work has gotten pretty busy for the first time in a couple years and the two courses I’m taking this term have been surprisingly time-consuming (but in a good way).

On the music room front, over the past several months, I managed to take our largely unused faux dining room (which used to be the TV room / den) and turn it into a serviceable office / music room. We went from this (that’s a close-up of the unfinished bookshelves I removed, stained, sealed and reinstalled):

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

Here’s a detail of the denim and striped fabric we used to cover the walls:

There are a few small spots left to fabric-cover and I need about 12′ of chair rail to go over the fabric seam. Other than that (and a good cleaning), it’s complete.

It’s a very lovely, breezy work environment with the big picture window (instead of staring into a corner with the old corner ‘cockpit‘ upstairs) and now there’s more than enough room for the sorely-needed two-monitor setup, with space to one side for my work laptop. Kudos to Patty for coming up with the idea!

Not much actual music composition going on, per se these days. This term I have Orchestration 2 and Keyboard Method (basic piano), so I’m essentially orchestrating and learning to play lots of OPM (other people’s music). That said, the term has yielded some interesting work, posted below. I also realized there were a few things from the Harmony class I never posted, … so here we go…

Cadence at a Gallop

After the ‘Battlestar‘ theme we worked on various types of progression cadences, and in a couple of assignments we (or, at least I) worked those cadences into a musical idea that ultimately became another theme. That theme worked its way into this term in Orchestration 2.

The first the assignment actually included five different cadences:

|| E | A E | A | Esus4 | E | – I IV I IV Isus4 I – Plagal

| C#m | F#m C#m | A | A | B | – VIm IIm VIm IV V – Half

| A | D A | B | C#m | – IV bVII IV V VIm – Deceptive (w/a touch of Mixed)

| A | A | B | E | E | – IV V I – Full

| C | C | D | E | E || – bVI bVII I – Mixed

Cadence Series – MP3 – 192kBps – 1MB – 0:45 min.

This grew into what turned out sounding like a nice little homage to the late Michael Kamen:

Horns and Strings – MP3 – 192kBps – 1.25MB – 0:55 min.

Fast forwarding to last week or so, I did a proper orchestration of this which came out quite fun:

Full Orchestra – MP3 – 192kBps – 1.25MB – 0:55 min.

Why Must You Love This Way

One of the last things done for the Harmony course was a nice rumba tune titled as above. Here’s the first two minutes:

Why Must You Love This Way – MP3 – 160kBps – 2.3MB – 1:59 min.

On to Orchestration 2

We’ve done a LOT of really cool and interesting stuff this term. Some of it has been a bit tedious, but even the activities involved in that have been a learning experience. Once again, Ben’s course provides more than I can absorb in one pass.

One of the first fun workshops we did was compose and orchestrate a short piece derived from a passage containing only accented rhythm (i.e., no melody, etc.). I took the Copland approach here (sorry about the low signal level):

Accent Workshop – MP3 – 160kBps – 900kB – 0:44 min.

During Week 3 we orchestrated the theme from Harry Potter. Since I’ve never seen the film(s) or listened to the music, this was an interesting exercise. We were given the basic melody / countermelody:

and we had to come up with two different orchestrations:

Potter #1 – MP3 – 160kBps – 650kB – 0:33 min.
Potter #2 – MP3 – 160kBps – 570kB – 0:29 min.

During Week 4 one of the things we covered was the different sample types in our sampling synthesizers (I use Native Instruments’ Kontakt 3.5). The following piece, which was written by Ben, I believe, required the combination of a number of different sample types for each instrument.

Combining Samples – MP3 – 160kBps – 341kB – 0:17 min.

That week we also were given a chord progression – no melody – and we came up with a composition / orchestration to match.

In the first, I experimented a little with the different sample types we’d just covered. Might’ve gotten a little heavy-handed with that. And in the second I tried to employ some of the stuff we’d done up to that point on crescendos.

Progression Orchestration #1 – MP3 – 160kBps – 1MB – 0:54 min.
Progression Orchestration #2 – MP3 – 160kBps – 828kB – 0:42 min.

Moving on to Week 5, we were introduced to The Flight of the Hornet Toad and asked to orchestrate it for a workshop. I think this is one of Ben’s, I’m not sure. It sounds like his sense of humor. Here’s what it looks like:

Here’s what it sounds like (on piano):

The Flight of the Hornet Toad (Piano) – MP3 – 192kBps – 539kB – 0:22 min.

Here’s what it sounds like (in my head):

The Flight of the Hornet Toad (Orch) – MP3 – 160kBps – 481kB – 0:24 min.

I’ve since found a better snare roll… 😉

The assignment for Week 5 was to orchestrate an excerpt from Frederic Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 in C minor – probably one of the most depressingly beautiful pieces of music out there. I hope I did it some level of justice:

Chopin – MP3 – 192kBps – 2.3MB – 1:35 min.

Jumping forward to Week 7, we started working on layers. In the following workshop, we were given a melody and harmony, and asked to add a middleground layer with the remaining instruments, as appropriate. Here’s the original, the added layer and the combined mock-ups:

Original – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.
Added Middleground – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.
Combined – MP3 – 192kBps – 747kB – 0:31 min.

Week 8 was all about chaos – not really appealing to me. But we did do one cool workshop, which opened up an important door in terms of making better-quality recordings. This is a piece composed by Ben. He provided left and right channels for each of the instrument tracks (which includes a really nice-sounding cello sample) and we needed to produce them by setting the panning roughly the same as an orchestra would sound like to a listener in the audience:

Panning – MP3 – 192kBps – 2.3MB – 1:40 min.

While doing this workshop I discovered that my level settings for most of the stuff I’ve been doing is set quite a bit too high. Ultimately, this creates some distortion and muddies the overall sound before the signal gets to the (software) compressor, which I use as a last stage to kick up the signal level without going over 0dB. Lesson learned!

That brings us up pretty much to date except for this week’s stuff, which I’ve already done (gotta take advantage of those extra days when they come along). Last but not least, here’s an orchestration built form a basic piano sketch – an excerpt from a Beethoven piano sonata:

Here’s the piano version, followed by my orchestration:

Beethoven Sonata – Piano – MP3 – 192kBps – 711kB – 0:30 min.
Beethoven Sonata – Orchestra – MP3 – 192kBps -600kB – 0:25 min.

Yes – it’s been a BUSY few months!!

Deep Star Space Trek Voyager No. 9

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Another week, another chord progression experiment.

This one really got away from me, heading in a Jay Chattaway direction before I could slow it down.

Now I just have to write and produce a new spin-off series so I can persuade myself to use this as the opening title music.

Hey… it’s late and I’m getting punchy… 😉


Fanfare for the Common Battlestar – MP3 – 192kBps – 1.9MB – 1:21 min.

Tunevolution: Those Crazy Eyes

Composition, Education, Software, Songwriting, Synthesizers 1 Comment

Last week in Songwriting Workshop:Harmony, our assignment was to put together a progression with certain characteristics. For that I created a groove that goes from a Im IVm Aeolian “power progression” to a Im IV7 Dorian equivalent. This inspired some additional changes that ultimately turned into a nice rumba thing:

Week 5 Assignment – MP3 – 160kBps – 1.7MB – 1:28 min.

This week was our midterm assignment and I chose to stick with that basic rumba groove and see what I could do with it. I didn’t like the G7sus4 G7 “resolution” because, well, it was just a little too “one-four-fivey” to go to CMaj after the very cool change to FmMaj7 and the other stuff that precedes it. I started fooling with it and hit upon a nice E7#5 which – immediately – struck a raw Steely Dan nerve that didn’t seem to want to settle back down. So I went with it.

The result – at least to me – is nothing short of astounding. That is, it doesn’t feel like I should have been capable of writing this – in three days, no less – but I did. I credit Shane Adams here, as his weekly class lectures on WebEx have been a true goldmine of information – and inspiration – for a harmony beginner like myself.

Anyway, I keep thinking this tune has to be a direct ripoff of some Steely Dan tune I can’t find, but so far it looks genuinely original. At this point there’s just a couple verses and a ‘chorus’ which, right now, sounds more like a bridge to me, but hey it’s a work in progress. This is transposed down a step from the earlier composition, mostly so I can ‘sort of’ sing it (getting some vocal chops back after not singing for so long is proving to be problematic). It’s also sped up a bit from a sleepy 94bpm to a more upbeat 110, which feels just about right. The drums here are Session Drummer 3 with tweaks to the stock rhythms by me. Everything else (but the vocal, of course) is the Kontakt 3.5 sampling synth, and I’m very happy to report that it works just fine with my x64 version of SONAR on Win 7. Nice NOT to have to spend money upgrading that just to get it to work.

When I redo this with a complete vocal and finish this I’ll post an update. It might be a while before I can hire the right horn section and female backup vocalists, but I’m already checking Craigslist…

Those Crazy Eyes (beta) – MP3 – 192kBps – 7MB – 5:07 min.

Those Crazy Eyes
© 2010 Ron Romano


BbMaj7 Am7 Gm7 D7#5
Gm7 G#m7 Gm7 G#m7


Gm7                          Cm7
Those foggy nights above the bay... so quiet

Gm7                         C7
Until we found each others' hand.

EbmMaj7               Eb°7     Dm7              Gm7     Gm7 Fm7
Three Rings and Garrapata: our private stomping grounds.

EbMaj7                          D7sus4            D7#5
We played the finest mind games  with the time we found.

Our steamy nights above the bay... on fire.
Long laughter. Short, white, sexy lies.
When all that high adventure was threatened by good-byes.
I couldn't look away from Those Crazy Eyes.

[chorus I]

Temp-ta-tion lies in Those Crazy Eyes.

F6      Gm7
Walk a- way.

Gm7 Dm7 EbMaj7  Cm7      F7sus4 
Not for nuthin' does the Mother

F7       F6   Gm7
Warn the Son:

              Cm7             D7sus4
Don't talk to Strangers after school.

D7              Gm9       BbMaj7 Gm6/E (or C7)
Don't take that pill just to be  cool.

              Cm7                    Cm6
Look both ways when you step out

    Cm6add9    D7      
But don't look twice - 

         D7sus4 D7#5    Gm
at Those Cra-        zy Eyes.

[chorus II]

Temp-ta-tion lies
In Those Crazy Eyes. Walk away.
Not for nuthin' does the Mother
Warn the son:

Don't let this fall out of your wallet.
Don't be too quick to compro- mise.
Don't argue with Sicilians.
And don't look twice - at Those Crazy Eyes.

[bridge I]

EbMaj7 F7            Dm7  Gm7 Gm7 Fm7
Some   love, it's de-liri-um.

EbMaj7    F7                  Dm7  Gm7 Gm7 Fm7
Magic. Mystique. Slippery oblivi-  on.

EbMaj7                  F7
Cool champagne, diamond ring

F7       Dm7       Bb°Maj7
Might be just your thing.

        Cm7      C7                  EbMaj7
But for some the prize is What's be- hind

      D7sus4 D7#5  Gm7
Those Cra-    zy   Eyes.

[bridge II]

Some love, it's delirium.
Tragic. Intrigue. Aaron and Miriam.
Way too late you find Fate
But it's not the one
That you see there when you close
Those Crazy Eyes.

p.s. yeah, you know who you R__ 😉

Hard Road Down

Audio Recording, Composition, Guitar, Performance, Songwriting Comments Off on Hard Road Down

Been a while. I’ve been getting a handle on songwriting harmony in BerkleeMusic’s BMW-133 Songwriting Workshop: Harmony with (the awesome) Shane Adams. This week was the first I’d actually put something complete together. I’ve upgraded to Win 7, which meant saying good-bye to the Tascam FW-1804 and replacing it with a PreSonus FireStudio Mobile. This is the first stuff recorded with that unit, which – especially considering it’s about 1/10th the size and has almost the same capability – is pretty darned nice.

Harmonically, this tune stays primarily Ionian for the most part, but borrows the Lydian II and the Mixolydian bVIImaj7 at different points.

The verse section uses two distinct “power progressions”: I IV and I VIm IIm V, which are both in the list of Ionians in the book. The second pass through the verse replaces the Ionian IIm with the Lydian II – actually II7sus4 & II7, followed by a V with falling bass.

The chorus uses an idea that’s similar but not identical to the last Ionian power progression in the book – the one with the falling bass line, i.e., prosodically (Shane?) ‘going down’. The progression is IV IV/bIV IIm V I I/VII VIm VIm7, repeating, and ends with bVII IV V.

Sorry if the audio is a little hard to follow and the vocal is a bit strained. I literally wrote, threw it together and rough mixed it in about 4 hours – that’s two acoustic guitars, electric guitar, bass, electric solo, MIDI drum track and a vocal. *pant* It sounded incomplete without at least these parts. Strings and piano will be added later, I’m thinking, and of course this needs about two more verses, another chorus and maybe a modified repeat of the bridge. Right now I’m just trying to figure out where to go with the lyrics.

Hard Road Down – MP3 – 192kBps – 6.5MB – 4:31 min.

Rainy Day Rag

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At least that’s the title for now.

Inspired by this guy, of course. First attempt at a Travis / fingerstyle composition.

Rainy Day Rag – MP3 – 160kBps – 5.2MB – 4:31 min.

Volo Flamenco – new and improved

Audio Recording, Composition, Education, Guitar, Software, Synthesizers 1 Comment

Hey, I just uploaded the final project MP3 for Orchestration 1. Here it is below – the new and improved version, first 2:30 of the full Allegro for Guitar and Orchestra.

Also linked below is the full six+ minute, guitar-only version, for reference. Might be fun to listen to that first if you haven’t heard it before.

It’s getting there.

Volo Flamenco – guitar only – MP3 – 128kBps – 6.4MB – 6:42 min.

Volo Flamenco – using SONAR 8 & Kontakt 3 – MP3 – 160kBps – 2.9MB – 2:27 min.

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