Monday, May 14, 2012

B is for Beliefs and Bass lines

Beliefs are ideas that you acknowledge as real or true.  It is to know something as factual and to not have doubts in it.

A few years back, I was working with a group of youth as a choir director. They called themselves New Generation. We would come together every second and fourth Saturday to rehearse and whatever songs they were able to learn would be sung on the second and fourth Sunday. 

At the beginning, I found it very hard to get a grasp at gaining the full attention of the youth; especially since the ages were so far and in between with youth ranging from 5 to 17 years old. They were beautiful people but I had never really worked with young people to truly be able to say that I knew exactly what was to be done. I just went with it because someone believed in me enough to make me director over the youth at my church. 

While I was still trying to learn what was required of me, I would often leave our rehearsals in tears for a few reasons. I chose songs that I thought were cool but the kids didn’t. I grew up in a Roman Catholic church. In the church I grew up in, we sang classical music. You would hear singers singing opera from the choir stand. Gospel music was a little different than what I grew up listening to, so my taste in what characterized a song as good for a choir to sing was different. 

I would get feedback like, “Ms. Stephanie, I don’t like that song. Can we sing something else?”  My ear also wasn't as open back then; I could hear harmonies but not to the T. So to try to teach it made me feel self-conscious because I was so new to doing things of that sort. And then sometimes getting their full undivided attention was difficult. While I was ready to get into the swing of rehearsing, they weren't always; even though Sunday morning worship would show something quite different than what was experienced during rehearsal; they were always on point when it came to singing the songs before the church.

I started to believe that I was not equipped for this type of God’s work. I mean, I was and am a singer, not someone who has the real experience to get voices to be as one except for my  starting of a youth choir in Nassau Bahamas when I was a kid.  It was only for a month then, but I got them singing; yet not quite like a Gospel choir. I never considered that as a choir director, I also had to study and practice like I would if I were singing the songs.
On one of my hour and half train rides back to Brooklyn from Harlem, I decided that crying was not going to help me get through to these kids. That  is when it came to me that I had to try to make a difference. At that point, I decided to write an album on which I would create songs from scratch just for the kids to sing.
I entitled the project I Believe. I worked night after night creating tracks, writing lyrics and laying down vocals. I gave myself a deadline that it was to be finished by Christmas Eve so I could present it to the kids for Christmas. And it happened; I was able to complete an album with 14 tracks which included 10 full length songs, an intro, an outro and two interludes. I was also able to get some of the kids to like the songs and found confidence to not only teach my own music, but to have more of an open ear for listening out for Gospel songs that would be appropriate for them to sing as a youth choir.
Click Here to Download on ITUNES
While working on my I Believe project, I wrote this song called I Know.  The song is about the undeniable truth; I know that God loves me.  It talks on the idea of being kept despite who we are and trusting in him. Because the song had a concept on love, I tried to add all the things I love into it. Harmony was definitely one. Another was a strong bass line. 

I think that when I hear a song for the first time, it is the bass line that I listen to first. Bass lines have this unique flow to them. In my opinion, it’s the bass lines that have people bopping their heads.

I am no bassist. I have a Korg Triton that I use to create and also have a strat which I sometimes plug into my Tascam to simply make music. I know chords and how to read music and thought that if I looked at a be-bop and scatting chord chart it might help me to create a bass line that would work well with the song.  I also had made myself familiar with the strings of a bass by looking at my ex-boyfriend playing his instrument all the time while I was using mine to sing in the band we were working with at the time. 

Ozzie Jones Jr, Bassist
I thought I could create something that sounded similar to what a real bass line might. But what a bassist can do cannot always be reciprocated by a keyboard. Luckily, when my boy Ozzie Jones Jr who is an extraordinary bassist heard I Know, he loved it and asked to do overlays to it.

He came by my little studio, plugged into my board and thumped to my track. It was a beautiful thing. That’s how the song I Know featuring Ozzie jones Jr came to be. And so, not only did I have a song I could add to this album I Believe for the kids, I also had a live instrumentalist featured on it. That was a true blessing. Please check out my song I Know and download it from ITUNES. Here is the link.

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