The following reflection was written by Soundfly subscriber and student Eva Grill, a Löwenstein, Germany based composer and arranger, and details her experience working with a mentor during a recent Headliners Club session.
By Eva Grill
The idea to do this mentorship session with Mahea Lee came up sometime last autumn while we were sharing our thoughts on songwriting — specifically, finding melodies to suit a text and the other way around — on Slack.
I wanted to dig deeper into writing for voices, including arranging an existing melody for four voices, which would be the primary goal. Along with that, I wanted to touch and explore other aspects of setting text to music, and so began my Soundfly mentorship session.
After some research, we settled on a poem by Robert Burns called “A Red, Red Rose.”
From the preparation and the outset of the session until its end, it was a very intense experience for me.
As with all Soundfly sessions, a Learning Plan (LP) workbook document is created and shared between mentor and student. I used mine extensively to keep track of links and resources I found along the way, to document each incremental result of my project; and to reflect on the accumulating tasks leading to the creation of my piece, and describe problems and questions I encountered throughout.
Mahea used our LP workbook to lay out the tasks for each week of the session — she gave detailed and in-depth feedback on my work. Along with the main project tasks, she added and described additional exercises and helpful strategies for arranging for voices.
In “short,” this Learning Plan has become a real 51-page-long bible that I can now go through and get inspiration for further work on my vocal arrangements. I’m glad to have it even long after our session has ended. And not to forget, I also enjoyed our weekly calls, usually at the end of my work day (I’m nine hours ahead of Mahea).
Perhaps for me though, the most invaluable aspect of our session was to have a mentor who cares, who asks, who listens, who encourages and inspires, who invites reflection, and who gives honest in-depth feedback. (Thanks again, Mahea!)
For the audio component of “A Red, Red Rose,” I’ve worked to use the MIDI from the notation software in my DAW, and make use of a sound library with a word builder. The result of this is what you’re hearing in my track of the arrangement up top. But this I started working on, only after our session ended. It has therefore become an ongoing side project since I’m rather new to working with all that and I’m going through a lot of trials, and lots of errors.
Mahea encouraged me to explore recording my own voice at home and make it part of the audio, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. Along with using MIDI CC automation curves for more expressiveness, I’ve recorded all of my own harmony accompaniment and using Reaper’s ReaPitch plugin, I pitched the tenor and bass parts down an octave to fill out the chorus.
That’s all for now, I’ll be sure to report back after my next session sometime in the future!
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