making music again

13 days ago, I posted this track to Soundcloud. The thumbnail is from my Dall-E 2 obsession, when I generated a bunch of computers with flowers.

It’s been a long time since music making was a part of my daily life. My 88-key Yamaha keyboard collects dust and cat hair in the corner of my apartment, taunting me. “Play piano!” it seems to whisper-screech at me, as I clack away at a different keyboard, telling myself I’ll devote the weekend to music, later… as weekend after weekend inevitably passes by.

Yes, I purchased a Shure SM7B to record the Shopify Course, telling myself it was worth the price because I can use it for vocals. I’ve studied the mic setup in PJ Morton’s Still Believe music video thinking, “Hey, that looks like fun.” But still, I haven’t used it that much.

Feeling fed up (and perhaps creatively constipated?) I brushed off some old files I recorded when I first bought the mic, mixed them, applied effects and filters, and posted the track to the internet without overthinking it too much.

What am I saving these files for? Nothing! I don’t have a plan to release an album or EP, I’m not even sure what my artist name is (since Megumi as a keyword never yields the correct results).

Hobbies don’t have to be jobs

Recently, I’ve given myself the freedom to do things I enjoy without searching for a way to monetize my hobbies. All I really want is to share music with somebody, even just one person on the internet who gives it a listen.

I’m hoping that I’ll keep this energy going and continue to post things I create without second-guessing myself too much. And maybe this will help you change your perspective too—your hobbies don’t have to make money. Just do it for fun!

Track Details

Anyways, here’s some nerdy background info about the track.

I believe the original song idea was from February 13, 2022, when I plugged my MIDI keyboard into GarageBand and recorded some takes. The built in “Classic Suitcase Mk IV” was a pretty solid instrument, but I messed with it a bit with the filters to make it sound more unique.

I don’t know if you’ve opened GarageBand recently, but for free software it’s pretty effing awesome? I used to use Logic Pro, and GarageBand actually has a lot of the same plug-ins. You can also add a shitload of them, just put your mouse at the bottom where it seems like it’s the end—and this blue line shows up. Click that and you can keep on adding more (you’re not limited to just 4!)

They also introduced this new artist Sound Packs feature, so I had a lot of fun messing with drum loops.

I also used the Apogee Mic that Ko gave me back when I lived in Taipei (Thanks Ko! It’s a great mic!) to record an idea for some lyrics and a melody.

That’s when I came up with the concept “shaky as fuck,” or rather, remembered how I felt on the day I was laid off from my full time job at Reali at the start of the pandemic. I was literally shaking—it was equal parts panic and relief. Panic because I had just moved in to a really nice apartment that I had splurged on, knowing I had this stable job, which was now gone. And relief because my job was giving me panic attacks. I was a hybrid Product Manager and Product Designer, which was basically two full time jobs at once. The clash of these two waves of emotion caused me to physically shake, and I went to my piano and started recording things. I even put on a wig and makeup and recorded a video, which you may have seen if you were following my Instagram in March of 2020. I took it down afterward, since it was a stream of consciousness reaction and it just felt too vulnerable. I don’t even remember what lyrics I was saying/singing, it was like a diary.

So. I revisited those raw emotions in 2022, when I guess I was still reeling from the aftershocks.

And then it sat on my computer as a draft, like so many other files I have on there… bursts of inspiration that I ultimately do nothing with.

The re-recording in 2023 that I posted two weeks ago had several changes compared to this original idea. First, it was recorded on the Shure SM7B, so the vocals are a bit better.

Second, I downloaded the Spitfire Labs free audio pack. This is by far the best free instrument set I’ve ever seen. The piano instruments have a ton of settings and styles you can customize. I mixed layers of these instruments with the built-in ones, added a shitload of filters, cleaned up the MIDI note timing… and added some texture and noise.

I think distance and time from this original idea made it better. I haven’t watched any tutorials or practiced audio engineering for over a year… but maybe my ear has changed? I found that the same MIDI track took a different shape and tone after putting it on the shelf for a while.

And I ended up sharing a different set of lyrics, things I normally would’ve deleted. Especially the gay parts.

Music as self discovery

When I record lyrics, it’s a different part of my brain. It’s often only after I record and listen back that I realize what I said. So it’s really like a journal.

After listening back, I noticed that the piano sound I’m drawn to has been pretty constant since 2009, even though I thought my musical taste has changed a lot. I was reminded of this little Casio keyboard I used to use when I first moved to San Francisco.

And in my lyrics, I talk about windows pretty often, like in glitter on your eyelid from 2017. Even earlier than that, during high school, I wrote a poetry anthology called “Window” and never published it.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that music creation is a window to my own soul. And I’m going to keep publishing it, even if I think it sucks, or I’m embarrassed. Something about screaming into the void motivates me to keep practicing.

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