Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hallucinations - Original Song

Check out my original song here!

I can officially say that I am a songwriter after uploading this to the world. I first started writing "Hallucinations" in July of 2012. My first ever recorded draft only included a work-in-progress verse and the model chorus that I used in the final. The song was only meant to be acoustic, but later I was inspired to include full instruments in the recording.

Before I get into the technicalities of the recording, I'd like to explain the lyrical content of the song. The words for the song was motivated through situations I faced back in my last year of high school. Everything was going haywire in my life back then. My school and my church, the two safest havens that I've considered to be my resting place of comfort, were in chaos due to a big split. It was one of the biggest storms, not only in my life, but I'm sure my family's and other people who experienced it as well. I was left confused and desolate. The first lines of the song was, "Through this darkness, I'm surviving. When my terrors come to life. Phases changing, where'd my life go? It begins to fade away." My comfort zone was being taken away from me. Just when I thought I felt safe, things took a turn for the worse (or so I thought). My old life began to fade away and I knew then that I couldn't have it back.

The whole chorus basically narrates how I felt during that time. No, I didn't really have hallucinations but everything that happened felt so unreal. Like things that only happened in movies. But I was actually facing the "bitter taste of reality".

The second verse just talks about my graduation from high school. With all these stuff happening, the glimpse of light was close and within my reach. Running this 'race' was tiring and I thought I could rest at the end and get away from the madness. Enter, senior trip to Komodo Island :) Personal story aside, I do believe that there is always a silver lining to whatever is happening around us. Jesus is our "glimpse of light" amidst the darkness. He's there to protect and to comfort. All we need to do is reach. Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." [NIV] No matter how deep our hallucinations get, He's our great escape.

Alright, now for the recording! As I've said earlier, I planned on recording this with just an acoustic. One day during worship practice, I was playing the electric guitar to Chris Tomlin's song "Our God". The intro riff was stuck in my head even when I got home. So I was messing around improvising the intro and that's how I came up with the riff at the chorus of "Hallucinations". It's just ascending notes but it makes a whole lot of difference to the music. And with that, I decided on taking it to a full band recording.

I recorded the drums using Doggiebox and editing its sound in Garageband. I'm pleased with the result. It's definitely worth the money. I added a lot of bass and reverb to the drums to give it a live edge feel instead of a session computer drum. I like my drums edgy because I'm too used to ROCK music \m/

The guitar parts are, without a doubt, influenced by U2's Edge and Hillsong's Michael Guy Chislett. Those delay pedals got me playing the guitar. There were four main tracks for the guitar: Intro/Verse delays, Chorus delays, Rhythm Distortion, Rhythm Open Distortion. The Intro/Verse delays track is basically what it is. On the Chorus delays, I added more volume, reverb, and echo so that it becomes the "Lead". Rhythm Distortion is just a track for power chord rhythms. Rhythm Open Distortion is for the open chords for the chorus.

In addition to the drums+guitar, I have a bass and piano in the background. The bass is audible but the piano is just used as a fill-in so that it doesn't sound empty during the verse.

Garageband can work its magic under the right user. I've been saying that since my previous recordings turned out successful. This marks my first original song recorded with Garageband but it's definitely not the last.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ellie Goulding - Burn [Instrumental Cover]

Check out my latest cover

For this cover, I made an all-electronic recording. This means that I did not use any live instruments or sound effects. For the drums, I took samples both online and from Jam Packs and combined them into a single beat. For the synthesizer parts, I used my USB MIDI M-Audio Keystation 49. This is, BY FAR, the most complex recording I have ever done. I used 24 tracks for the keyboard/synth/piano parts alone. Yeah, imagine the lag my computer gets when I try to open the file...

I did release a sneak preview into this project and named it Project 514 (because it was posted in May and it's 2014). That recording only consists of (at most) 5 keyboard tracks. The complicated stuff came when I compared my instrumental with that of the original by Ellie Goulding. I started adding in sounds that fills in the atmosphere of the song. Vibraphone, Grand Piano, Filtered Synth, Bass Synth, Music Box, etc. This process took over a month before I settled for what I have. I can't tell you how many times I've played that song... Ask my brother how tired he is of listening to that song because I was putting it on repeat.

I noticed that Ellie Goulding's original recording uses a mixture of live drums and electronic effects. Even though I do like the punchy rhythm in the original (and the beatboxing too!), I preferred to keep the live drums more dominant than the drum effects.

Overall, it was a fun project to work on. I really love this song. Ellie Goulding's unique voice makes it all the more lovable. I first heard this song in a restaurant one Sunday afternoon. Thank you Nathan Webb for telling me who sang it. Hope you all enjoy my cover!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hillsong - I Could Sing of Your Love Forever [Cover]

Here's an acoustic cover I did of Hillsong's "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever".

In this recording, I used an Epiphone AJ200S-NA. I 'inherited' this guitar from a friend of mine who moved back to Indonesia. He left his stuff here with his girlfriend and she told us to take the guitars home. So here I am with his acoustic and Floyd Rose electric...

I had the guitar tuned to C#G#C#F#G#C#. You might be familiar with the DADGAD tuning. This is a half step down from that.

My microphone is Apogee One's built-in condenser. Vocals and acoustics go well through Apogee! If only I had known that a long time ago...

My recording software is the trusty Garageband. Seriously, if you know your way around Garageband, recording music should be fun. The result would also be amazing... For this song, I only had three tracks: Guitars+Vocals, Backing Vocals, Fill-in Vocals. I did the song in one take, so the guitar-playing and melodic vocals are simultaneously recorded. The backing vocals appear in the second verse and onwards. The Fill-in was just one segment in 1:09-1:15. All three tracks contain boosted reverb and a bit of delay. Auto-tune? Pffft! ...yes, but it didn't go above 40%...

I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did recording :) Feedbacks and comments are greatly appreciated!

God bless!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cornerstone Cover [feat. Rhett Dela Cruz]

Click here to hear the cover: Hillsong United - Cornerstone [A Cover by Justin Tjoandi & Rhett Dela Cruz]

Background story:
I met Rhett for the very first time in the Every Nation Church at downtown Toronto. Pastor Jay informed me of this "other musician who leads worship as well". We introduced ourselves and listened to each other's sample recordings. I knew we had to collaborate one day...

After the Harvest Institute in Montreal (that was around August of last year), we agreed on doing a cover together. But which song? I first suggested "Man of Sorrows" but we were both unfamiliar with it, so we decided on "Cornerstone".

Months went by and we can't seem to find the time to get together and record it. I started on making the background instrumentals first. Strings, drums, guitar - all completed within a month. Finally, reading week came... For those of you who do not know what this is, campuses take a mid-semester break to let the students "catch up" with their readings. Well, we took advantage of this break to finally record the vocal parts for the song.

I went to Rhett's place on Thursday expecting a lengthy recording session as I have with most of my recordings. It was quite the opposite, really. We finished recording within two hours. Professional singer right there, mates! After a few edits the next day, it was finally published... Our first collaboration and it was quite the project. Hope we can do more covers, Rhett!

EXCLUSIVE INFO FOR THOSE READING THIS BLOG ENTRY: I kinda cheated on the vocals during the second chorus. As you may notice, I was doing the harmony in the background. If you listen close enough, you'll be able to hear my voice being auto-tuned. How I love our modern technology! Shhhh! Don't tell!

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Clarity" by Zedd - An Acoustic Cover

So I heard this song in the radio alarm one morning last week. Shazam-ed the tune and found this song. I've been listening to it repeatedly throughout the week and decided to put it into a cover. So here it is, "Clarity" by Zedd.