Archive for August, 2007


August 29, 2007

hey kids! welcome back. whew…i’ve been writ’n a bunch a songs this week, the most recent of which is this guy…”beastern” (CLICK IT FOR MP3). this song is the “complex” part of a two song personal project i did this week called simple/complex. this is mostly in reference to melodic material, but carries over into arrangement as well.

after a conversation with mama steiny this week about the potential of running out of creative steam, she suggested that i write a simple song that just focuses on a strong melody. i liked this idea alot, and as i am prone to, started to think of it as a bigger project…LOGIC: if there’s a “simple”, there should be a “complex” and they should be released at the same time. whatever. “beastern” is the complex one of the set.


when i finished the basic bones of Our Universe (available at the detholz wordpress blog) i started playing with ideas for “beastern”, as a three or four part, single line, guitar vamp. i recorded roughly three minutes of these parts and added a drum track that eventually loops at different places and comes back to the original groove. i like the busy-ness and harmonic character of these parts, and kept them at the same root and parts for the entire run, as a drony “pedal” sort of base. i was considering writing lyrics with the melody, but decided against it initially. i used a melodica for the main melodic instrument, as i thought it fit the character (much like an accordian would) and because i have one kicking around. with that drony harmonic material, i needed a melody that was particularly “interesting” and starting playing AROUND the harmonic material of the accompaniment. the main scales that would be more or less diatonic to this accompaniment are A to A (white keys – or aeolian) and the same scale with a major THIRD (C#). i started the melody there, and then started adding F#’s and D#’s and resolving them to create an “outside” sort of tension in the melody. i think it created an odd, meandering character, but one that still resolves and gets back to it’s “home.” i made the main phrase 8 bars long before it repeated, but with two repeatable 4 bar phrases, that i broke up later (when the bass and vocals come in). then i split things up between melodica and guitar to give the ear breaks from the otherwise relentless melodica stuff. 🙂


i did end up singing a bit, cause i wanted the tone of the human voice to appear, to add more interest to the piece. once i taught myself to sing the melody, i used the beginning of the alphabet (see here) as the words, and wrote words similar to the sounds and pronunciations of the alphabet part:




it’s a tongue twister!! TRY IT!

the next way that i decided to add interest was sort of cinematic. i used the alphabet idea and imagined someone seeing this song performed live and remembering to practice his alphabet. he steps outside the club for a second to hear himself, and goes through the alphabet once to make sure he’s still “got it,” and heads back inside for the end of the song.

i see this piece as an instrumental really, with the voice as one of the instruments, and the sounds (or words) as articulations. a fun way to write!

thanks for listening.

check out this weeks Special Exclusive Jon Steinmeier Song of the Week at

grease machine

August 22, 2007

hey kids! welcome to this weeks episode of the “song of week” mini-drama magic show super series. “grease machine” is a new song that i wrote on my back porch and recorded in my imagination. the nice thing about my imagination in this case, was that it took me into the future (2112 or so) where it’s possible to merely imagine things, like sound recordings, into existence. really convenient.


this was another of a few recent posts that i wrote on the guitar, something i don’t do that often these days. i rather like it though (the guitar), and in this case, had a lovely time on my back porch with guitar, pen, paper, coffee, and cigarettes. made an afternoon out of it.

i’ve been thinking about form lately, most recently about a conversation with jeff thomas about the writing of mark messing (mucca pazza), someone i’ve admired for years, as a writer, player, and human. jeff noted that some of mark’s forms are set up in an A B A C A D A E etc…format. “A” being the main idea (chorus, hook, theme, refrain, whatever) and the others being various developments of the idea. i really like this approach to form, almost in a theme and variations sort of way. it keeps the piece moving in potentially new directions within the confines of “theme,” something i find to be truly satisfying. i was at least conscious of this approach in writing “grease machine,” as someone who recently gets trapped in ABABABABA sorts of forms. so, i expanded my horizons a bit. i ended up with an A B C D A B C D E F A form. i used a rhythmic motive of groups of two (over three for the most part) as one way to keep it all together. i think you’ll hear what i’m talking about…but let me know if you don’t and i’ll give you min/sec examples. from the beginning, you can listen for repeated groups of TWO, and you’ll probably hear what i’m talking about. a little thing, that i think goes a long way in keeping the tune together.

i also played with time alot in this tune, mostly marrying the rhythm to two things:

1.that two over three idea, and

2.the lyrics.

the two over three idea came from the openning guitar part, the first thing i wrote. i liked it enough to make a theme out of the idea, and off we go…

i continued to use these groupings of two’s throughout the piece though, in the B, D, E, and F sections. the C section stands out because it hangs on long notes, and doesn’t adhere to this otherwise relentless grouping, in the same way that the beginning of the E section does…sort of serving as a “bridge” in the song. bla bla bla…

other rhythmic play that i had fun with was the frequency of chord changes in the “chorus” or D section of the tune (“i’ve been swallowed by the grease machine“). there are three chords in this section that repeat in order over phrases of four…so, you end up with a vocal pattern that repeats in twos and four’s, and guitar parts that repeat in three’s. i find that this actually makes the guitar part SOUND like a longer phrase than the vocal part, when it’s actually shorter (oddly enough). what do you think?


alrighty, enough nonsensical gibberish. oh…wait. no, there’s more. the lyrics of this tune (again) come mostly from the steiny subconscious super computer, designed in 1978 and developed more fully over the past 29 years as technology became available to “us.”

the first part is a play on words between english and german…ultimately blending together the word for toilet (bathroom) and merchantile. this finding took my imagination to a place i’ve been in the past couple of years a few times. that place where you’re on tour with a band, and have to use a bathroom somewhere, whether you’re allowed to or not. whether you’re a patron or not. in this situation, i’ve had to (a couple of times) be quick and/or sneaky to get the job done, or (in a couple of cases) get scolded by an employee of said establishment. so, naturally, in my mind, the Das BaditzimMer-chantile exchange on main had a lovely bathroom, if you could get in and out with getting into trouble, or being swallowed by a gigantic grease robot. if you really want more meaning out of this song, you’ll appreciate the E (bridge) section, where i too express the desire for meaning, even questioning why it’s “meaning i want.” an excellent question for the philosophers in the audience.

i thought today, about things that this song COULD be about…and again, came up with a couple of good ideas, but yea…it’s a sound and picture game to me on this one. it’s all a part of the aesthetic. the character of the tune.

any questions?




as always, thanks for listening. 🙂

famous people

August 16, 2007

hey kids! welcome back. i’m kind of excited about this weeks song. i had fun playing with guitary stuff, and with the character of this rocker. it’s called “famous people” (click to open or download).

well. this guy started with an entire drum track, and was a far cheezier animal in my head at first. once i started playing with guitar and bass parts, my aesthetic changed. my ear was drawn more toward eastern mystery macho for some reason. and so it goes. i’m pretty happy with where it ended up though, especially the “chorus,” the repetative spoken part with octave guitars/bass and sort of cliche guitar melody.


i’m a big fan of doubling. i do this with guitar and bass on this tune, as well as vocals. i even have the bass guitar rhythm following the kick drum pretty closely thoughout, something that i think really keeps a tune “tite” in a specifically “tite” feeling way. the bass part of this tune actually came first (second…after drums). i like the the mean little metally sounding lick of the verse, and was imagining AB-ing it with the vocals, guitar lick – vocal line – guitar lick – vocal line – etc, though i wasn’t sure yet what the vocal line would be, musically speaking. i ended up speaking that vocal line after trying a couple of singy parts that just weren’t work’n for me. speaking with some level of urgency seemed to fit the meany dark character of the verse guitar/bass parts than singing did, to my ear.

the idea of the little B section that happens after these verses was to lighten the mood a little, probably residual material from the cheezy original concept i had (albeit vague). it made sense to me to sing this section (in parts too), as the character is lighter and less funky.

the “chorus” or C section is my favorite of these main three. the bass and guitar double was the first idea here. repetitive, a little funky, driving. a character that you hear when the guys in the movie are heading out to do macho things and tensions are high. here, i’ve got bass and two clean guitars doubling the riff, and the octavy distorted guitar playing the eastern sounding single line dealy. really fun character.

the last section of the piece builds over four sections. the drums change slightly in every “section” here, and guitars generally don’t. they loop four different lines, designed to be a little off kilter and to “move” well, or be rhythmically driving. the big distorty line does this by being relentlessly steady eight notes that change keys and chords. bass follows the kick drum (generally) again, another guitar (clean) a short loop around one of the rhythmic themes of the tune, and another plays a more melodic part here, but with an intentionally groovy rhythmic pattern of twos over groups of three. you could think of this like “one, e…a, two…and, a…” based on at “one, e, and, a” four count. i thought about playing even more with rhythm here, firstly trying to mess with triplets over the eighth notes, but found it too be too complicated for how not-so-cool it sounded. i think this (as weird as it is) makes a lot more sense to the ear. it’s tense sounding, and “complicated” but it still moves foward. it flows. to me at least. i guess that’s part of the question. i feel like these things are happening, but really it’s just that these were the intentions of or motivations for the part writing decisions…not to say that they’re affective. 🙂


well, what do YOU think the words are about? they’re a bit convoluted, but there are some strains of theme in there that i think ended up making some sense in a strange way. these were written with a stronger focus on character and sound than “meaning” or “subject.” but, i think that my subconscious created some consistencies that work pretty well. i felt, by the end of recording the vocals, that it started to make some sense (not the original intention). in this case TITLE came first, then rhythmic and melodic ideas for the three sections, and then words, A to B to C. i recording myself riffing over these sections with jibberish, which i often do, to get the rhythmic and melodic ideas down. then i added in texts that worked with those melodic constraints, and fit the character that i was hearing.

so, any ideas what it’s about? don’t think of “about” in terms of narrative, but more in terms of character, context, imagery, etc…but i’d be interested to hear what people’s take on subject matter are on this. i have ideas, but i usually consider this sort of thing a “no wrong answers” deal. i love hearing what something sounds like through some elses ears and processing system. here are the letters:

he’s com’n round the bend
make sure it’s ready to go
he’s wearing davidoff
and a face like jonny joe

famous eyeballs long flowy lines
famous pitfalls help me unwind


he’s got a lobster in his hand
he’s made of butter and sand
that’s not our man
we’ve been had…we’ve been had

famous eyeballs long flowy lines
famous pitfalls help me unwind




thanks for listening/reading.


carnival candy

August 8, 2007

hey kids! welcome back. this weeks song is called “carnival candy.”

it’s a piece inspired by the classic creepy circus idea, an old favorite. i’m not sure what specifically inspired me to write this in the last week, but it’s a character that i love to play with in general. it’s creepy, a bit off kilter harmonically, and kinda funny to me. i love the energy, and the scene it sets in my mind’s eye. a lot of the stuff i wrote for my college senior recital fit into this “circusy” category. it’s just something i dive into pretty easily for some reason.

WARNING: if you’re deathly afraid of clowns, don’t think about scary clowns while listening to this piece. also, if you’re deathly afraid of pianos, don’t notice that there’s a piano in the song while you listen.

this tune started with the bass line entirely, from front to back. the repeated pattern consists of an octave and a minor sixth (key of c – C and Aflat) that changes roots throughout, from c and back to c. the rhythm of the bass line is key to the “movement” and energy of piece. the idea is for it to sound like you (or some character) is moving in some direction, with some level urgency, or just that something “busy” is happening. someone is up to no good. i also used the even more repetitive percussion parts to lend to this movement, but i didn’t want them to get too big, for fear of going from sneaky and mischievous to a godzilla sort of creepiness. they’re all basically percussion “toys,” or tiny noise makers and bells. blabeebla.

so, piano gets melody AND bassline in this one. i filled some space with the pipe organ sound in the background, holding diminished chords to add to the tension and fit in with the harmonically off kilter piano material. and then i added the churchy chime in the background…another classically creepy and ironically devious gesture i think.

finally, i added a melodica and vocals in unison with a counter melody, as the form is bascially a big A A, and gets otherwise boring the second time around. i like this form though. same material TWICE, with new layers the second time around, or progressively thicker as you go, over the same base. there’s a lot you can do with whatever that first idea is. tons actually. and sticking to it as the basis for the piece is not only a good exercise, but also helps hold the piece together from point A to point B. SO, melodica, vocals, and…extra percussion. hm…what is that extra percussion that comes in half way through? any ideas team?

(insert Jeapordy music here)

what is: jonny’s chest?

that’s right!

for extra rhythm in the second half of the tune, i just played drummy stuff on my bare chest with my bear hands. not that many people have bear hands at their disposal, but i was lucky enough to find some at a garage sale last year in hammond indiana.

and…last and least: i wanted to play with this some protools effects (i know, not necessarily a good reason to write something) so i recorded myself saying “ice cream” repeatedly and added a funky time bender to it at the end of the piece. it’s sort of like the punchline to the joke to me. the moment where you realize that it IS a goofy piece, and i know it too. almost like the creepy circus has turned into a mere backdrop for sugary goodies. not so scary anymore, eh? it also fit into the “carnival candy” title, which i came up with before any of the writing really happened.

ok…boring. i know that’s way more material than anyone wanted to know about this tune, but that was basically the thought process for it. i’m pretty happy with it. i think that it sets a mood. i like that it’s light in step but dark in demeanor.

what do YOU think?

thanks for listening.


romance by request

August 3, 2007

hey kids! welcome back. thanks for tuning in to steinyradio. this weeks song is called “romance by request” and goes into that semi-cinematic orchestral category.

the goal: i started out attempting to write a romance theme, and feel like i ended up somewhere closer to tragic romance, or lost love. i think my subconscious connects to that…

A. because the thought of the straight-ahead romance theme felt a bit cheezy to me, and is pretty tough to pull off without ending up sort of comedic (if you’re me). 🙂

B. because i’ve always found the bittersweet or just plain tragic sounding scoring to really get me in the eyeballs. i think the connection between love and tragedy is intrinsic, and unavoidable…from lost love to concern or mourning those you love. i wonder if this is also affected by my faith and idea of sacrificial love, the impetus for some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking stories we know and can come up with.

so, “romance by request” is a bit darker than i had originally intended, but weaves back and forth between light and dark throughout. i always hope that this sort of movement sounds smooth and natural, but i feel like there are moments in this one where it’s a bit obvious. it’s also possibly a bit long. 🙂 but here’s some technical stuff:

a. i wrote the harmonic (chordal) movement first and melody second…not always a good idea. 😉 but the harmonic movement became a theme in itself in a way, in that when it comes back toward the end of the piece i think it’s recognizable, this time with an entirely different melody on top.

b. the weaving i was talking about happens mostly in the big sections (about four of ’em in the piece). mostly from dark to light to dark to light, if you simplify it. actually, this is a really good question for my faithful audience (mom?): “what’s the emtional contour of the piece by your ear?” you could think of it in terms of A/B/AA/BB forms for example, or:


or even


ultimately, this is a piece i’m happy with but not trilled by. i think its drawback is that you probably won’t have the melody stuck in your head…and, even though i went for the conflict of emotions angle, it’s still a bit cheezy to me. 🙂 maybe that’s good though. it’s underrated after all.


tune in next week for more bore!