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Revive your music: Finding lost arts

When I took my first design classes in university, we were taught to use pen and paper to sketch pages and pages of… stuff.

I’ve drawn boxes, circles, squiggles, unicorns, if you name it, I’ve probably attempted it. (I also love to draw in my free time. In fact, for a while, I drew comics for this blog!)

In an industrial design class, the professor had told us to bring markers for sketching. Industrial design, in case you didn’t know, has to do with making physical objects, so it really is a sketch-heavy class.

I forget the markers, and all I had in my pencil case was a black sharpie and a purple highlighter.

He wanted to do a visual inspection of our sketches, so I have to hand something in, even if it’s chicken scratch. I shrug and use the sharpie to outline and purple highlighter to shade. It comes out bright, like my style. 

Eventually, the professor comes around to my table and collects the sketches. 

“Sketching on paper is really a lost art,” he says. “Everyone’s moving towards digital.”

He flips through the sketches and when he gets to mine, he says, “Some of you guys are going to be fine sketch artists by the end. I can already tell.”

I kept using highlighters to sketch for the class, and to this day, I still use highlighters to sketch. I shall use highlighters until the end of time. 

I never learned how to draw hands properly, so last week, I sat down and drew hands for a few hours.

Recently, I have been going back to basics, back to the lost arts.

I went back to my very first digital piano, a Casio, and dusted off the clumps of dust bunnies and moved it upstairs. The piano has basic weighted keys and a variety of sound effects on it, so you could play the glockenspiel or xylophone if you’re bored of piano.

I wanted to jam with myself. I wanted to play different parts of a piece of music, by myself. Is that sad? I’m not sad, you are!

I loved playing with the different instrument sounds when I first got the piano.

On the first day, it hurt my back to sit at a non-piano bench. All the Alexander technique exercises went out the window. The desk was too high for a piano and my back felt broken-stiff.

In the evening, my sister sat on the chair and said, “You want it higher?” Her hand clutches the lever under the seat and SWISH the chair is 20cm taller. 

To the children and adults in the room, I’ve fiddled with the chair and it didn’t budge, but I also have a history of breaking chairs, so thank you for judging me.

I try to play on the digital piano again on the second day, and I get some useable footage.

But alas! It turns out if one part of music is 0.3 seconds off, it ruins the entire piece. For example, if you’re trying to record the left hand and right hand of a piano piece separately, they likely won’t line up exactly when you match them up. 

On the third day, I re-shoot some clips to play using both hands together.

Eventually I figure out why people wear headphones when they’re recording music: They’re listening to the other parts of the music so they can combine the parts perfectly later. DUH. It’s really useful.

I spend half a day editing (by the time I’m done editing, I’m ready to vomit sugar plums). I’m aware that some of the squares are jiggly and don’t line up, but hey, I don’t really work at pixar.

Here is what I came up with, for the Sugar Plum Fairy!

I used the audio straight from my camera (aka iphone). Are you supposed to do that? I wanted to process the audio using Audition (which thankfully I know how to use), but I would’ve had trouble syncing it with the video again.

I guess I could process each audio clip individually, then stick it back with its respective raw video footage, THEN edit the entire thing. But that takes… a long time?

The acoustic piano sounds different from the electric piano due to the camera being further away and the instrument tuning. The acoustic piano was the reshoot, of the clips that didn’t line up.

Next time, when I’m recording new parts, I will listen to the other parts already recorded, through my headphones.

If you’re interested in recording music, I’ve written about how to record high quality music at home.

I am so brand spanking new to mixing and if you’ve done this before, if you’re finished laughing then I would like to hear your wisdom/tips/pointers please.

Playing with sound effects isn’t a lost art in MUSIC per se, but it’s a lost art to me.

It’s back to the lost arts. In the new year, I foresee that I’ll be going back to basics for other areas of my life as well. Simple can be beautiful.

Do you know an area of “lost art” that you’re fond of? Something that maybe you used to do back in the day, but have stopped doing it due to many reasons, or no reason. This can be a music technique, an instrument, or even non-music related, such as an exercise!

It’s not a bad idea to revisit something we used to love and learn from our old selves. I mean, there must’ve been a reason you used to do those activities, right?

In any case, I never found out whether or not I became a fine sketch artist. Seeking opinions. Just kidding.


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Jasmine Smith
Jasmine Smith
5 years ago

I find learning to play the piano is a therapeutic and cognitive skill to learn, especially for children. Check out [link removed] they’ve got some great courses in Birmingham.