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How I composed a song without any musical talent

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I like to whistle random tunes or songs I listen to when I'm by myself. Sometimes I'd think to myself that's quite a nice original tune I'm whistling but I'd never think more of it. A few weeks ago, while out shopping, I was whistling again. I guess when the weather is nice, you just can't help yourself, right? This time though, the melody that was coming out was making me nostalgic. It had a sad feeling but I loved it as it aligned with the feeling of those past memories.

So I decided to work on the tune a bit more as the 15 seconds of the melody I had was not enough.

Completing the melody

Over the course of the next few days, I would whistle the tune over and over again, trying to add a little bit more to the music. I would just go with the flow, not thinking too hard about it and record my progress using Voice Recorder on my phone as soon as I thought the next part sounded nice. My main focus was to get the melody to a good enough length for it to be worthwhile to listen to.

When I was 80% happy with what it sounded like, I then started to think on how to play it.

Playing the tune

Originally I wanted to play this on the violin as the timbre would have been perfect for the sad part (intro). However violin is a difficult musical instrument to learn and my goal was to finish this song off in a month's time. So I tried doing it on the piano initially. Now I have no clue which note on the piano would corresponding to what whistling part. I was just doing trial and error but it sounded very dry as I needed the left hand accompaniment to make it more lively.

Luckily though, I came across a youtube video. It was something very random, a girl playing a small musical instrument which sounded really nice. The kalimba it was called. I knew I had to get my hands on that instrument to play my song. I ordered it on Amazon and started watching videos on how to play it.

After a few days, my kalimba got delivered and I jumped straight onto trying to play my melody instead of learning the basics. I was too excited to get on with my stuff that I did not want to waste time on Twinkle Twinkle. Again it was just trial and error but the tune sounded amazing on this thumb-piano.

While learning to play the melody on the kalimba, I made tweaks to the original tune here and there and added some more bits to uplift the melody for that particular instrument. It's all been gut feeling.

Filming the video clip

I had an idea about how I wanted the video to look like. At first, I wanted to be seen getting off my bicycle, sitting down and taking out the kalimba from its protective storage case. However that did not work out quite as well. It was a Saturday and I had been ill for a few weeks and was still recovering. Since it was going to be the last sunny day before autumn kicks in, I had no choice than to go film this in my poorly state. I knew the background had to be a lake and I had the right location in mind, Stanwick Lakes, where I could get some quiet areas to do the recording.

Armed with my Samsung Galaxy S10 as camera, my tripod, bike, kalimba and hankerchief for my runny nose, I set off for shooting. It was only when I was at the set that I realised how filming myself would be such a challenge. Honestly if I had a friend with me, it would have been so much easier. Sometimes the lighting from the sun was not ideal, sometimes the background was too much that it would take away the emphasis from the musical instrument and other times, I would make mistakes in playing because I was getting too frustrated of the many retakes, nervous of the people around and tired of it taking forever. All in all, it took me 4 long hours to do the shooting.

Getting the song ready

Back home, I looked at the dozens of clips I had taken and discarded quite a lot which I thought at the time of filming, was good. The bike scene was not a great as I needed a closer shot. I managed to get an intro (me sitting down to open the kalimba case), the first part of the song (view of me playing directly in front), the second part of the song (a view of playing the instrument at an angle), the third part of the song (playing in front but with a different view) and the last part (me packing away the kalimba and going into thinking mode).

I used DaVinci Resolve 15 to make a short movie. It was my first time using the software and honestly it took me a long time to understand how to do things. One clip was underexposed and I wanted it a bit brighter. I had to add some text to specific portions of the video. I had to lower the volume in the beginning and end clips. The main problem however was the background noise in the video which was ruining the melody. I couldn't get that sorted in DaVinci Resolve, so I thought I'd record the melody using a proper mic and mute the video audio and have the standalone melody play on top. That didn't work as expected as the video would not sync with the audio as my playing was not at the same tempo.

I googled and found I could use Audacity (needed an FFmpeg library to import .mp4) to achieve this. It removed a lot of the background noise but I had to superimpose the audio over the video clips back in DaVinci Resolve. All the editing and rendering the final piece took more than 10 hours. The final clip is just under 2 minutes though!

My plan was to publish the song on 05 Oct 2019 on Facebook account and my youtube channel but I put it on YT on 22 Sep because, well, when you're ill you think about how life is short and you may not get the time to do the things you really want to. I didn't want all that effort to go to waste in case life cheated me.

Final thoughts

It's been a rollercoaster. Although not 100% what I had originally in mind, I'm happy with how things turned out to be. The song has deep emotions for me and I'm proud I was able to make it from beginning to end, all by myself. The title itself "Butterbeans" is a giveaway for the one person I wrote this song for. I wanted this to be the first song of my album "Kimi ni Todoke", yeah I know, already got big plans!

Here's the audio without any noise:

Please let me know what you think about my music, whether you like it or what I could do better next time. Thank you :)

gices Published 23 Sep 2019
I'm a Software Developer and the founder of Clever Dodo. I encourage people to practice MAM (Movement/Arts/Meditation) for a well-balanced and happy life. Born in Mauritius and now living in the UK, I usually blog about fitness, music, spirituality and driving topics to pass on my knowledge.


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sarah_7 24 Oct 2019

It's pleasant sounding. I heard about this before but I didn't know about the instrument. By the way the indian lazy with the violin is awesome. '' nervous of the people around'' I used to be like that too. Try to pan the video during the editing. It's a nice melody. I Hope your special girl likes it too.

gices 28 Oct 2019

Thanks for checking out my music.

The special girl does not think I'm special, so my expectations were met with a unfelt "yeah, it's good" :| I'm proud of myself and that's what really matters ^.^

Oh I'm not so good at video editing...still lots to learn.

sarah_7 28 Oct 2019

well she is supportive if she's the one filming. I use simple software. I don't like spending too much time editing.

gices 28 Oct 2019

We're not together; I filmed myself using a tripod but it took a lot of takes. Are you using Windows Live Movie maker?

sarah_7 28 Oct 2019

Youcut on mobile and movie maker on pc. The file is too huge on youcut 100mb but only 14mb when i render through mmaker. I have blender as well