Music To Lyrics – A Unique Production Service
For several years now we have been providing a music production service for lyricists and singer/songwriters who require musical arrangements for their lyrics and song ideas. Every song is different so a fresh approach has to be taken every time. Below are four excerpts from a wide range of songs produced over the past year with notes on how each arrangement was created.
Evamore is a project by Sir Chris Evans who created an album of songs based on letters sent back from soldiers from WW1. The album was a huge undertaking which involved many session singers and musicians. On this particular song I worked out the arrangement based on a rough demo sent over my Chris. This production was done remotely as Chris is an extremely busy globetrotter and couldn’t attend the studio.
I played Acoustic Guitar, Bass and Percussion. Sir Chris played Electric Guitar. Lead vocals were by Steve Balsamo, Backing vocals by Brian Rice & Kirsty McKinna. The strings were orchestrated by Jon Cohen with Violin by Seonaid Aitken. The Harmonica was by Fraser Speirs.
Once the song was established Chris recorded his Guitar parts at home and drop-boxed them to me to slot into the recording,
Tony B is an amazing Nigerian gospel singer with a great ear for music. Tony has done a great job of tracking up his vocals and creating a huge choral effect for this song.
On the track he sang the melody line to me and from that we worked out the tempo and a beat. Then I added drums and a bass line. Tony has lots of ideas in his head and would occasionally hum parts to me, like the bass line, and even ideas for guitar parts although not being an instrumentalist I had to come up with the chords for the arrangement. We worked through lots of beats together for the production. On this track all instruments are played by me.
Imaginary Creatures is the brainchild of Scottish born lyricist David Scott. We are currently working on the third album.
David comes into the studio with music references which are a great way of establishing a song. We don’t directly copy the music but he will typically suggest ideas from records which are a good starting point. David has strong musical ideas and even the instruments arrangements are close to what he has in his head.
On this example the rhythm track and tempo was referenced from a record and the general guitar sound also. The track was then developed by bringing in session musicians Rich Anderson on keyboards and Keith More on the guitar solo. Drums were eventually replaced by Alex Harvey and Michael Shenker drummer Ted McKenna.
Norine Mindeyes is also from Nigeria but has lived in Scotland for quite some time. We have done three songs together. In this example she came into the studio with all the vocal melody parts sang into her mobile phone. I then recorded all the instrumental parts into our music software starting with the Clavinet and a rough rhythm guide. Over a period of time the song evolved into this fully fledged production.
Gavin Blackie is a talented singer and songwriter who recorded his debut album Laid Bare with me here at Offbeat. Gavin comes into the studio with a strong vocal melody and firm ideas of how he wants the track to go. He will suggest references for drum sounds and records that have inspired him. Although these are good starting points we are careful not to directly lift anything from an existing composition. These ideas are just the spark for musical parts that have to be unique for the composition we are creating. On this track all instruments are played by me with backing vocals by Kirsty McKinna.
I’ve have done many tracks and albums with lyricists and songwriters and have found a niche that not many studios or producers seem to specialise in. Understandable as initially it can be a bit nerve wracking sitting with a writer with lyrics and a blank page with no music. You will hear from the diverse range of styles above that there’s not many types of music we can’t undertake here at Offbeat,
2016 Gets Off To A Great Start
2015 was another amazing year at Offbeat. 2016 is lining up to be outstanding as it gets off to a great start with Ross Munro’s single Gravel Path (from his ground breaking album Twisted Traditions -Greentrax Records) reaching no1 in the Celtic Radio Charts. The album was produced here at the Offbeat Studio.
The BBC/Swedish movie Stockholm My Love starring Neneh Cherry will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival before being aired on BBC TV. All the commentary for Neneh’s voice in the film was recorded here in Edinburgh for the film which is directed by Mark Cousins.
In 2014 and 15 Offbeat produced an album for Sir Chris Evans entitled Lest We Forget. The album is based on letters written back from the front line by soldiers who never returned. The songs were put together by Sir Chris who also plays Lead Guitar on thew album. It feature vocals by Brian Rice, Steve Balsamo, Aubrey Parsons, Darren Wharton, Ruth Notman & Seonaid Aitken.
The album has been passed on legendary music producer Youth who has the task of inviting well known artists on to the album to make sure it achieves maximum publicity.
Imaginary Creatures second album Danse Macabre was released in 2015 and this year we start work on the third album working with the projects brainchild and lyricist.
Offbeat are about to embark on a debut album for African singer Anthony Obi. He has a inspired voice and we very much look forward to working with him.
Singer and songwriter Norine Mindeyes is about to release her uplifting and truly majestic debut single United. Offbeat producer Iain McKinna and Norine have been working for a couple of years now on songs which will be reeled over the year. Notably Tell Me & Living On A Bridge.
Who knows what else will come our way over the year. On Wednesday we work with Skyler Jett, completing vocals which were recorded in Switzerland. Skylar famously accompanied Celine Dion on the movie’s title track Titanic. He then replaced Lionel Ritchie as Lead Singer with The Commodores.
Offbeat Projects & News October 2014 – Kirsty’s blog
BBC Radio 4
We recently had the pleasure of recording a program for BBC Radio 4 with respected journalist Alan Little. Alan was reminiscing on his Sarajevo experiences on a program produced for BBC producer Hilary Dunn by Loftus Media.
David Scott is a 70’s Rock influenced lyricist who came to Offbeat as he was looking for somewhere to record the many songs he had written over the years. The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was a collaboration with Offbeat producer Iain McKinna which took 18 months to record. It featured a mixture of very talented musicians, the aim of it being to showcase his lyrics and songwriting skills.
David is now back at Offbeat recording his next album The Dance Macabre which includes the awesome drummer Ted McKenna (pictured right) giving the album improved dynamics and quality. To record Ted’s drums they went to Heartbeat Studio just outside Edinburgh which is run by the lovely Dave Valentine with talented engineer Ed Logan. Ted’s kit is rather large and we needed a bigger space to get the sound that was required for this album. Ted was the drummer for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (for all of there 9 albums) and Tear Gas, Michael Schenker Group, Rory Gallagher’s Taste and The Party Boys. He has drummed on four tracks so far and we are planning to go back to Heartbeat at the end of the month to record his drums on the rest of the album. Other guests on the album are synth player Luis Albornoz-Parra, guitarists Keith More and ex Blue Oyster Cult founding member slide guitarists Joe Bouchard.
Offbeat has had a long association with Heartbeat Studio’s as a place to record music projects. Iain and I first worked there in 1984 with singer, producer Chris Harley (aka Chris Rainbow) mixing an album of ours under the name Zed. We also recorded Spirit Of The Glen, a trilogy of albums for Universal Music there as well as many other projects over the years.
Here’s an excerpt of the song I Must Join from The Butterfly’s Dream. It features Luis on Analogue Synths and Iain on Vocals, Guitars Bass and Drums.
You just never know who is going to walk through the door at “Offbeat studios” and to our surprise in walked a very nice Indian man called Dr Avinash Bansode (pictured), he wanted to record a Mindfulness CD. He is based in Edinburgh but runs mindfulness courses all over the country for people who want to learn about being mindful, which is in the form of some very peaceful meditations that can enhance your life and help you deal with you’re everyday hassles and stress’s of life. Most people don’t really have the time for these things but this particular set of CD’s are designed specifically for the “Busy Person” and is a great tool to have for your life. I really enjoyed doing the editing for this project which involved putting together five x 30 minute audio files from the narration he recorded here at the studio.
Quite a few years ago now Iain produced an album for Gospel singer Christine Robbin. It was through Christine that Norine was made aware of Offbeat. Most of the material for Norine is actually written in the studio from melodies that Norine creates and it and evolves over time into some pretty exciting productions. As with a lot of collaborations with singers and lyricists Iain interprets the melodies into musical parts, sometime using references provided.
This is a very pretty specialised approach to music production which Iain has developed working with many vocalists and lyricists over the years. It’s what makes Offbeat unique and keeps us very busy working with artists from all over the World.
Here’s a short clip from her excellent song United
We are very busy here working on the recording and production of an album with a World War 1 theme which we can’t say too much about at this stage. It’s a huge project with lots of collaborators, details to follow in a future blog.
Hot News From Offbeat – Kirsty’s Blog
WOW, it’s been a fantastic year so far for OFFBEAT RECORDING STUDIOS with lots of fantastic new talent and interesting projects – the outcome being seven albums of varying styles. from Dance, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk and even World.
J.A Connor’s composition OPEN YOUR MIND has reached Number One in the Broadjam World Chart. Vocals by Jim, instruments and production by Iain McKinna and backing vocals by me. Jim previously had a no1 in the Celtic music charts with another Offbeat production of his song MYSTERIOUS LADY.
The second album for Imaginary Creatures entitled The Dance Macabre is now well underway. Lyricist David Scott has his ideas interpreted, co-written and produced by Offbeat’s Iain McKinna. Ex Blue Oyster Cult member Joe Bouchard will be guesting on Slide Guitar on this album. Joe covered one of David’s songs from his first album called EVERYBODY GOES INSANE. The album will also feature mega guitarist Keith More (credits include Joe Satriani, McCartney, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Michael Shenker band).
Professor Sir Chris Evans has written an amazing album of World War 1 songs for this years centenary. Iain is producing and supporting guitarist Chris musically on the album which will feature Ross Munro, Brian Rice and various other singers and musicians still to be decided. Chris is a leading light in Live Sciences with a great passion for music. He has a lovely guitar style and is a very talented and prolific songwriter. The album which features 15 songs will be completed by November. Here he is at the launch of his Live Sciences hub just last week with his friend Theo Paphitis… more to follow in a special blog about Chris and this great project.
Ross Munro first worked with Iain when he was pipe major for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on The Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of albums for Decca Records. The first album reached NUMBER ONE in the UK Classical Charts and the second album Journey achieved a CLASSICAL BRIT AWARD for best album in 2009. Ross is now in the studio recording his amazing new solo album which will be called Twisted Tradition. The sound of his haunting pipes which he has blended in with a whistle on some tracks is truly special, adding to his unique and uplifting sound.
Recently OFFBEAT worked with Hip Hop artist Izz Juvey and edited and mastered a single version of his song MOMENT OF BLACK OUT. Izz, aged 24 and born in Gambia, brought out a music video of M.O.B which was released on March 30th 2014 and released by Uprisin Records. Izz has a positive message to his music wanting to, he says “inspire the troubled youths of today entrapped in social injustice” The timing of his rapping is brilliantly executed, drawing you into the video and with the arty visuals of Edinburgh I certainly felt compelled to watch it over and over! Iain has just finished recording his follow up single Starin At The Mirror. Juvey is busy at the moment organising his future gigs, so its onwards and upwards for this inspiring and very talented young artist. I have recently interviewed him and this will be published in one of my future blogs. Meanwhile check out the video!
Gavin Blackie (pictured right) who won Edinburgh’s Got Talent in 2012 is a fantastic, charismatic and unique singer currently working on his new album Laid Bare at OFFBEAT which he is very excited about, It’s true pop with a twist with some very high energy dance tracks and some moving pop ballads . His vocal range is stunning, adding the right hooks and melodys. He writes and sings mainly about the pleasures and traumas of love but with really catchy choruses you find your self singing them again and again. Gavin and Iain have co-written this album which is due for completion later this year.
Mark AG another truly talented singer,and musician came all the way from Brighton to record with OFFBEAT, he recorded his album Lighting The Way Back Home in stages over a period of six months. The album contain songs about love and various emotions in the style of easy listening rock which Mark wrote on Piano using his Ipad!. The album has been completed just this week and is now ready for release… more to follow in a blog upon release of the record. Here’s a clip from the excellent song Louder which will soon be released as a single. It featores mark on Piano and Iain on Guitar, Bass & drums
David Ell approached his album Welcome To The Ball in a different way by recording all the backing and vocals in his home studio, and what a talent. His 3 dimensional and very underground rock style production hooks you in to each track… blending in the haunting vocals… such a great singer too! He came to OFFBEAT to have Iain mix and master his album which enhanced each track adding depth and quality to the overall sound that makes it a killer record you just want to play again and again. He is also in the process of planning future solo gigs where he is creating video backdrops for each track, this will not only make it really exciting to watch but a show not to be missed. I’m about to arrange an interview with David so watch this space! here is an excerpt from one of the tracks on the album entitled Reach.
Rich Anderson – Extraordinary Keyboard player and MD has been involved with OFFBEAT for many years. He Is currently on tour as MD for the musical DIRTY DANCING in UK and is booked into the studio in August to lay down some pre- recorded parts for the show with various backing singers
Steven Lambert, an American who current lives and gigs in Perth Australia is another ‘remote’ client. He asked us to put together a Hendrix backing track with guitar played by Keith More and Bass and Drums by Iain. Steve has been gigging around South East Asia for the past 20 years having played in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam doing mainly solo gigs but also with various groups as a backing musician for some regional acts travelling through the area.
Other artists who have been in the studio this year include Nigerian born R&B singer Norine Babs. Singer songwriter Duncan McIntosh who we met at The Voice showcase held at our studio a few months back, Stewart Morrison, Lesley Young & John McKay Clements from Montreal, Rapper RP, Dance and Pop singer Renaud Cmela, Robert Maitland , Hip Hop artist Skinz, Pop Singer Songwriter & Drummer Brian Rice, Jazz Singer Jess Abrams, Hollywood actor Brian Cox, Neil Oliver & BBC producer Samantha Heeler.
If you have a songs, lyrics, instruments, vocals or even backing tracks to record or needing produced just pick up that phone and call us NOW on 0131 556 4882.
Mark Greenock (Mark A.G.) Album – Singer & Songwriter
As a songwriter/lyricist, Brighton based Mark Greenock aka (Mark A.G.) has been involved in several bands and solo projects. He first contacted Offbeat a couple of years ago as he was considering doing some more session singing. He also had some songs that had been written and recorded with others in the past and wanted to have them re-mastered and polished up. The intention was to put them on an album to showcase his lyrics and vocals. He was also going to record a few covers to put on a showreel for his session projects. Although he lived in London at the time, Mark had spoken to several studios both there and in Scotland and was really impressed with the initial service he got here at Offbeat.
Mark says “I visited the Offbeat studio on the High Street in Edinburgh and was immediately impressed by the welcome I got and the very friendly, relaxed atmosphere in the studio. Iain and I got chatting and I noticed straight away that we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things. He told me about some of the recording/production work and other musical projects the studio was involved in and I decided very quickly I would complete the project at Offbeat”.
Over a few sessions in 2012, Mark recorded a few cover versions and included two of them (Snow Patrol –Eyes Open and Roachford – Only To Be With You) on his debut album 3am Sleepwalkers which was later released on iTunes/Amazon/CDBaby and others. Offbeat also re-mastered the other original songs and some of these were also used for the album. Although Mark had by now returned to London we were able to use Dropbox to send tracks to and from each other.
The album was well received and Mark was interviewed by Laura Piper at Scottish Television about it. He decided to send any profits from the album to a children’s hospice charity. Mark had made up his mind, at this point, to record some more tracks at Offbeat in 2013 but due to being ill and requiring surgery he had to postpone this for a while. Once he was better, he contacted me and we had a long chat about recording a brand new album from scratch.
Mark is first and foremost a lyricist and singer. He had already built up a large collection of lyrics over the years but had recently been writing music and lyrics for some new songs. These songs have some really good strong melodies and arrangements and he really wanted to get them all on an album. I explained that Offbeat could provide the full musical service of production, assisting with musical arrangement, instrumentation, recording and mixing. This was an exciting piece of news for Mark as he had been wanting to record more songs in Edinburgh.
Mark says “It’s my home town so it’s a labour of love for me and I really liked the way Iain and I had worked on previous sessions. I booked a series of two day sessions towards the end of 2013 to start recording the tracks for my second album ‘Lighting The Way Home’. I currently live in the South of England but I travel to Edinburgh to record my songs as I have always been very impressed with the service I get at Offbeat. From the very first phone call to the final mix you really feel like a valued customer and leave there as a friend. The atmosphere in the studio is professional yet relaxed and informal and this makes for a fantastic working environment. It’s also in such a unique location and this adds to the attraction of booking time there. Iain and Kirsty are great to work with and nothing is too much trouble. They will work on a track/part of a track until we are all 100 % satisfied with it. They offer constructive production ideas and lots of cups of tea! I have worked in a lot of studios and this is definitely my favourite place to record.”
The album is now well underway and is an exciting mix of eclectic styles and tracks which Mark has been working on for a while now. The songs cover a variety of subject matter including triumph over adversity, the value of friendships and following your goal in life whatever it may be. There is also a wry observation about love and all that comes with it. Due to health issues, which he has now thankfully fully recovered from, Mark had a pretty tough year in 2013 and he initially dreaded that he would end up writing a lot of depressing tracks!
Mark explains “Thankfully I don’t tend to do that and instead I wrote some songs that were a bit more positive. I think it’s important to give people songs that they can identify with. I genuinely think that everyone secretly wants a song they can listen to and say “that could have been written about me”. Even the title track itself ‘Lighting The Way Home’ is not necessarily about going home or even a place you call home, It’s more about the feeling you get when you hear a song, see someone, remember an event or even just dream about it. That feeling you get that makes you feel like you’re at home wherever that may be. I hope the whole album gives people a bit of that”.
Mark’s first step was to complete the songs he had been working on to a demo stage. He used the Garageband app on iPad to record Piano/Keyboard, Vocals, Bass and Drums. Once these demo tracks were recorded he sent them via Dropbox to me with song notes and lyric sheets so that I could have a listen to them prior to the recording sessions.
During the initial sessions, we firstly recorded drums and a guide vocal/initial keyboard tracks then worked on the other instrumentation. During each step of the track we fully discussed ideas and arrangements and tried various things out until we were both happy with the sound. Once the instruments were recorded we recorded the vocals and then mixed each track.
Whilst recording the song ‘Louder’ I asked Mark if he could use the piano track from Garageband but due it not being midi compatible he used another app, Music Studio 2 along with a Line 6 Mobile Midi Piano to record the piano tracks later that day and then sent them as a midi file to me via Dropbox. I was then able to lay his piano tracks straight onto the mix for editing.
During one of the December 2013 sessions Mark asked Offbeat Kirsty to play on one of the songs ‘The Problem With Love’. Kirsty played some haunting and truly beautiful Electric Violin. It added a whole new dimension to the song and he is very pleased with it.
Each track, so far, has been recorded in two days. We have both loved every minute of it. At the time of writing this blog, more sessions have been booked and Mark hope to release the album ‘Lighting The Way Home’ around Spring of 2014.
Recording Studio Edinburgh ‘Offbeat’s’ Website Launch
After 20 years since I started Offbeat in 1992 we have launched this brand new web site at our Recording Studio Edinburgh location in the High Street.
We would like to thank Ben, Dave, Jon & Jane at Attacat Internet Marketing for all their fantastic help in building the new website.
The site features many services for Singers/Songwriters & Solo Artists which are now available Worldwide thanks to file sharing applications like Dropbox. The business also has a strong local presence. I’ve been involved in Edinburgh’s music scene personally since 1976 when I started Southside Studios with Bass Player and Guitarist Richard Brown and since then I’ve experienced and recorded literally hundreds, possibly thousands of local artists and bands as well as being a gigging musician myself. I’ve also worked with many artists and musicians nationally and Internationally over the years.
Offbeat specialises in providing musical accompaniment on ‘real’ instruments for a variety of artists. This approach has ensured our survival in an ever changing music industry which has made the studio business very tricky since the onset of home recording technology and re-invention is the key to staying in the game. Luckily there isn’t really a substitute for ‘real’ people playing ‘real’ instruments.
I hope you enjoy the new site and any feedback at all is most welcome. Just get in touch with me directly using the contact form. I’ll be very pleased to hear all your ideas and comments.