Updated: Oct 18, 2020
As I’ve mentioned before. I’m a psychology graduate so I have read many Psychology research papers and books (both for school and leisure). One book worth noting was Mindfulness by Ellen Langer, a professor of Psychology at Harvard. I highly recommend people to read it because it teaches the importance of paying attention to our emotions and thoughts, in other words, being "mindful" and having the tolerance for uncertainty which I think is what we need especially during these times. This idea is supported by another book I read “Mastermind, how to think like sherlock homes.” by Maria Konnikova, another psychologist. The importance of being "mindful" was also stressed here but an additional idea was introduced and that is “motivation”. According to Konnikova, we need to motivate ourselves to think in a mindful and present fashion and to exert effort on what goes on through our heads. Hence, the 2 “M”s go hand in hand.
So, from everything I’ve read and studied, including these 2 books, I learned that trouble springs from idleness and to keep sane, you need to stay busy. When you’re idle, you feed your anxious thoughts since you aren’t doing anything. Being aware of this idea is key. I’m currently unemployed so I made it a point to learn new things everyday during the quarantine. The very first thing I did was try to learn how to dance. I’ve always wanted to do this and I’ve been a frustrated dancer ever since. For some reason, it was a challenge for me to copy dance steps and to match my movements to the beat of a song. I was not graceful neither did I have “swag”. Hahaha. After a few weeks of trying, I saw no progress. And, it was funny because I would post Instagram stories of what I thought was “progress”, later realizing I was showing no progress at all because a few friends commented on it, one friend bluntly told me “Carms, focus on your strengths” and it got me thinking. I guess we can’t be good at everything. But, I don’t regret trying because it kept me occupied and it was fun. At the same time, it was good exercise.
Going back to my friend’s comment about “focusing on my strengths”, I rediscovered my love for Music. I posted a bunch of covers then one night, I couldn’t sleep and some melodies started coming into my head. I picked up my guitar, played some chords, and hummed some tunes. This is how I write songs. I make the melody first before the lyrics. I also usually start with the chorus, then that’s when I make the verse. I’m guessing it’s different for people, but this is how I do it. So, that night I was able to make the first single I released on Spotify “By My Side”.
After writing "By My Side", this wave of inspiration took over me. The following days I just kept making music and recording them. For some reason, this is how I am. When I’m inspired, I keep coming up with songs. But, there are times I can't come up with anything no matter how hard I try. So, I took advantage of this momentum and kept writing.
I also thought, why don’t I try creating music that really represents me? I've always wanted to be associated as an alternative rock artist. Besides, that’s the genre of most of the songs I cover and since, I’d always just record my vocals while playing either the guitar or piano, I wanted to try adding other instruments to the mix. I discovered this term called "mixing" which is a process of blending all individual tracks in a recording. Then, I found Adobe Audition, a program where I could do this.
I learned that the biggest mistake I’ve been making was not using a “metronome”, I have never used this in my past recordings. For those who don't know, a metronome is a device that produces an audible click or sound at a regular interval that can be set by the user, typically in BPM (beats per minute). Musicians use this device to practice playing to a regular pulse. So, from there, you could tell that it was a challenge for me to make the instruments blend together since I wasn't following a beat and I was just playing by ear. I thought I was able to pull it off because it sounded “right” to me, then a musician friend told me that the beat was all off and the instruments didn't sound cohesive.
I recorded “By My Side” again, using my guitar then mixed it with bass sounds and drums sounds from my keyboard, this time using a metronome. Then, I had the same friend hear it to get some feedback and obviously, I still lacked the skill and practice so I got someone to help me with the mixing process. Another friend, Neo Recasata helped me with recording the instruments and I can’t believe we were able to do this only by exchanging files online. Although, I was in a rush because I wanted to release it on my birthday. It was only a week until release day and it took us 3 days to finish the song. I immediately submitted it to Distrokid (an online music distribution service).
So, I received both good feedback and constructive criticism with "By My Side". Then I realized something important, that with more time, music could sound better. I gave Neo more time to work on the arrangement for "Guilt Stricken" and I'm happier with how it turned out because the mix sounded cleaner and I felt that the song really represented me. I got better feedback with "Guilt Stricken" and it now has more streams than "By My Side", despite being released a month later.
I also set the release date for "Guilt Stricken" 4 weeks in an advanced because I learned that if you set the release date ahead of time, you get to pitch it to Spotify playlists and voila, the song ended up in an official Spotify playlist: “Fresh Finds Philippines”. Getting on a Spotify playlist is a big deal because your song gets more exposure since thousands of people are following those playlists. So, I was really happy when this happened. And, the important thing I learned here was to practice patience. I guess I was just so used to recording on my own and immediately posting videos to my Youtube Channel without considering other factors. CLICK TO READ MORE ABOUT GUILT STRICKEN
I also decided that "Guilt Stricken" needed to have a music video to go along with it. But, due to the virus and not being allowed to go out or have visitors at home, I decided to do it myself. I did a lot of research on how to properly shoot and edit a music video. I created my own backdrop, covering one corner of my wall with newspapers. I also made use of our garden and edited this scene to black and white to give variation to the MV. But, it was actually also because the clips were a bit grainy and I realized late that you need more lighting when shooting at night. Then, I used our family’s audio room to add a “professional” looking scene where I’m singing with a mic stand and playing my electric guitar. Another scene was shot against a white background and I added in a few "story scenes". You can watch the MV below.
After shooting, I studied Adobe Premiere to edit and learned that “panning” makes a scene look more professional and I needed this because most scenes I just used a tripod to shoot myself. The clips needed to show motion and my siblings only helped to shoot the garden scene. Then, I learned how to play with the video’s colors, use transitions and how to add effects like putting slow motion scenes to add drama. And, I can say I’m actually very happy with how it all turned out. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement but I personally think it wasn’t bad considering I just did this at home. It took me days to edit and it really made me appreciate what professional videographers do because it’s so time consuming to shoot and put everything together. Moreso, if you're OC about it which I was. But, most of all I really enjoyed doing this and learned a lot.
Another thing I explored this lockdown was joining livestreams to promote my music. As of the moment, I've guested and performed on Boys Night Out Magic 89.9, twice at OO NA! with Oscar Oida, OnlivePH, When in Manila, Indie TV, Letters and Music Net25, and Final Round Promotions. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIVESTREAMS
I also got to know some of my subscribers since I have more time to talk to them every now and then. And eventually, I mustered the courage to host my very first and own livestream to celebrate my Youtube Channel's 12th anniversary. I was happy and touched with the support I got from past and new subscribers. Despite posting online, what others don't know is that I'm a shy person. I get nervous talking and performing in front of a crowd which is why I never really did it and stuck with just sharing my music online. But since the lockdown, I decided to challenge myself. And now, I find myself warming up to doing these live performances.
Lastly, I also learned how to make my own website. I set it up all by myself using Wix. Based on my research, it could serve as my electronic press kit (musician's resume). But this is also where I post all my updates and random blogs about things (such as this article). Then, I also recently added a new feature which is the "members area" wherein now site members can share discussions on the forum. The latest topics are music recommendations for rainy days and fresh new indie original music. I did this because I want to create a community where people can share music recommendations and talk about anything under the sun. On it's 2nd day, there are now 58 members and I hope the community would continue to grow.
To sum it up, I haven’t gone out since March and I really felt like if I didn’t keep myself occupied, I could possibly lose my mind. So I tried my best to keep myself busy. I rediscovered my love for music, learned new music terminologies, learned how to mix audio tracks, make my own music video, guested on several online shows, hosted my own livestream, and made my own website.
I can’t say there weren’t any bad days during the lockdown because I’d still feel anxious every now and then. There were days that I even broke down and burst into tears. All my plans were ruined and the future feels so uncertain now, but I learned that to keep sane, you need to distract yourself. What's happening to the world is beyond our control. I learned that you should always be open to learning new things and be open to new experiences because you never know if you will enjoy it. Work on improving yourself and keep in mind that life is short so make the most of it regardless of what's thrown at you.
I also just want to announce that I am releasing a new single really soon, it's the first Tagalog song I've written. So, stay tuned for updates!!