Archive for the ‘vocal harmony’ Category

freaks of nurture

July 9, 2008

hi friends! thanks for tuning in!

Freaks of Nurture

“freaks of nurture” is a poppy little romp through my last few weeks, and simultaneously through years of field work in the area of relationships and human interaction.


this was another song written from the “guitar.” this is often a good bet for me, if i give it time and enjoy playing the instrument. as a keyboard player and drummer, the guitar is both a nice break and an environment with welcome limits. the verse section of this song is a testament to that: very simple and melody driven. the “chorus” has a “strange change” that i think helps get its’ point across, even though the “nothing new under the sun” theory still applies.

for the geeks: i go to the the four chord for the chorus, but make it it IV, IV/I, #IV. what the hell?.

also for the geeks, or anyone who feels like singing along, the melodies in the verse and chorus start exactly the same way…with the same four notes, but in different keys! yay!! this is one of those “continuity” issues that i was really happy with.

after writing the core of the song on my back porch with guitar and voice and verse one lyrics (and coffee), i went to Ableton Live and laid down the fake drums and keyboard parts. i was going for simple, synthy, and a bit funny. i then added guitar, bass, and background vocals that were vaguely in my head from early on, but as usual, came together during the recording process.

WORDS (also known as “lyrics”)

whew…ok…well. this is another song in the “serious” category, which i’m getting increasingly comfortable with for some reason. while it’s understandably vague (i think), it stems from a short list of things:

1. the maplympics (july 4th weekend of events here)

2. girls

3. human nature, social verses innate

4. a funny compound plural noun coined years ago by my friend, steve williamson: “freaks of nurture”

5. a couple of recent dates i’ve had.

woah. dates? i won’t get into it here. but let’s say that i know some lovely people. this song isn’t “about” anyone but me ultimately, but touches on some of my “romantic” relationships, and the conflict and joy therein. in this song, it’s something that reminds me of how wonderfully humans are made (creationist theory), and how interesting and tricky it can be to operate as one (inherently).


thanks for listening! if you’d you find me interesting enough to send you updates about “song of the week” postings, please click HERE for the mailing list.

if you don’t, thanks for your patience.



September 25, 2007

berlin” (mp3)


this weeks song is my first since i got back from a trip to berlin. i wrote the basic idea and some lyrics while i was there, about being a tourist. about how truly great it is for ME to be there and see what I see and experience. it’s quite amazing to have ME there, i’m sure. i’m like james bond and stuff. and, being an american tourist, i ask a lot of really good questions and take a genuine interest in things that i see there that are AMAZING for ME to be near. i’m really awesome.


found some great “kraftwerkesque” drum sounds and started with the percussion part (intro). i’ve been listening to some music spun by german friend and DJ, Jonathan “Bacon” Johnson on a compilation called the “the brutal truth of Joe Johnson.” it’s an amazing mix of stuff, groove heavy, soundalicious, and generally awesome. my track is more “busy-bodied” and “electronic” in arrangement than this cd, but some of the sounds, tempo, feel are inspired by some of this listening.

i pretty happy with this one, but i never felt like:

A. i got the vocal take i wanted, and

B. am still churning out some similar ideas, including vocal writing and keyboard part writing. i LIKE these ideas, but they’re not super “original” or anything. being super “original” is not really the ultimate conscious goal, but i don’t have the same sort of response to my recent stuff that i do to stuff i hear elsewhere…stuff that comes from a different brain or brains. so, maybe that’s just the way it works. 🙂

i DO like the energy of the tune and some of said part writing, and generally the way it “moves.”  in fact, i’m dancing writing now as i typw thia.

i hope you like the tune.


i’ve created a mailing list page here: mailing list where you can sign up to get a weekly reminder when the new song gets posted here. i havn’t used this service before, so if you DO do it, let me know if it’s a pain or it’s annoying and i’ll tweak it or look elsewhere for another server.

thanks for listening!!


certain things

September 10, 2007

welcome to another weekly update of the jon steinmeier “song a week” weekly blog weak week blog leek. this weeks song is for everyone, especially brad smith, who challenged me to get serious. THIS SONG IS SUPER SERIOUS. it’s called “certain things” (CLICK FOR MP3).

okay. this song came lyrics first, in eight stanza’s that had to be tweaked once the music was written. i was conscious of the lyrics as i wrote the piano/melodic parts but not specifically enough to write the music TO the lyrics. so, the lyrics (syllables per phrase, etc) had to be modified eventually to fit.


if i were to say what this song “is about” i would say it’s about taking comfort in knowing that while you don’t know as much as you’d like to (in general), no one else does either. i’ve found that we generally say a lot of stupid things when we pretend to know what we’re talking about and don’t. opinion is inevitable and crucial, but we have a natural desire to KNOW, and often jump the gun by assuming (or acting like) we DO know. this is vague i know, but it’s true i think in a very general to specific sense.

that being said…i love the peace of mind that comes with understanding how little i know as an individual, and the learning that can actually happen when i keep my mouth shut and pay attention. the things in life that we often learn aren’t the things that we’re seeking out. they sometimes come to us in that process toward some other knowledge, like learning (the hard way) that you’re clingy, or that you still see yourself as the fat kid with glasses that you were in 7th grade, or figuring out why you care about that, or having political and/or religious opinions and why…

i reference “checking out the humans” in a sort of “we’re all in this together” sort of way. just to say that everyone has more questions than they let on. and “there’s an amazing level of relax, that comes with checking back” is a key line in the song for me. it’s the first line i wrote, basically as a reminder that we can learn from our own and other people’s triumphs and failures, and relax in the idea that we’re not gonna figure it all out. it’s ok not to know everything. 🙂

as i sing/read the lyrics i find other little ideas (in the same realm) that make sense to me…which is funny and maybe ironic, cause the “meaning” behind the lyrics is something that has evolved a little bit as i read ’em. not to say that they’re lofty by any stretch, but that as i write some bits of my subconscious show up and i have to decipher them later.


so, writing from the piano, i wrote the A section (certain things are certain) first and liked the character of the Major 6 chord to the diminished chord and looped it. the B wanders a little harmonically (still just two chords though) and made sense with the A so i dug it. i end that section with a FIVE chord (sorry for the harmony talk…hopefully interesting to someone) and had the idea for the intro of the song…just lingering on the five (sol) as a single note. it makes your ear thing that it’s one when it’s the first thing presented to you, so when the full A section comes in it’s like you’ve been tricked, but that note (Five) is still IN the ONE of the A section. 🙂 baaaaaaaaaa sjdklfa;jsdkfl;ajsdklf;jaslkdf;ajsdf. i do the same thing with the bridge, where the chords meander all over the place and end up on a chord (a NEW chord) that has the same single not from the beginning in it…which then repeats just like the intro. again, you’re ear (in theory) has been directed to a different harmonic “home” and will (hopefully) be surprised again to hear the A section return. so, again, you think you know where the one is, but you could be wrong…get it? like the lyrics. get it? yeah? ha! woo…

what do ya’ll think?

thanks for listening.

for the shorties

September 5, 2007

well, i’m not sure what to say about this week. i ran into MAJOR writers block for a few days, and was busy with the wedding of dear friends, and an awesome (and busy) weekend all around. so…what i came up with in between wacky time and creative stand-still was a series of five really short (and not very interesting) pieces for 5 or so vocalists. call me lazy, but i decided not to track with any “instruments” this week. no midi, no mic placement, plugging and unplugging etc…i also wrote as i recorded, and didn’t do much for multiple takes, which i think becomes evident at some point. 😦 in the same breath, there are some moments (mistakes and all) that i rather like, partly because they’re real, and/or screwy. AND…writing for all voices is really fun, and not what i’ve been doing recently, so i wanted to expand the palate a little.

bla bla bla here are the mp3’s:


i’m so tired

fun park



(you can also stream them in order at

i sort of feel like apologizing for throwing together some A’s and B’s and improvizing and/or writing goofy lyrics, but i won’t. one of the things about the “song a week” project is that it can be a look into my subconscious, and part of the idea/fun of it is to see what i come up with and then to look back and think about why. this is mostly a selfish endeavor after all; one that is based in part on what state i’m in at the time…in this case, borderline coma. that being said, i think there are some funny moments in here, that to me were worth posting (not everything gets posted). regardless, i hope you enjoy them for one reason or another.

disclaimers abound. 🙂

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. 🙂