Yellowgold

The official website showcasing the music of Yellowgold, produced by Jason Howell.

More on Evernote

Evernote is fantastically designed, and incredibly versatile. And for writing music, it's become indispensable to me.

I wrote in my previous post about how I use Evernote to make audio recordings of the ideas that pop in mind. Just a few things to add to this.

Often, an idea gets recorded into Evernote, and that's it. There it sits, waiting for me to revisit (or not) at a later time. Sometimes I find that once I lay down that big idea and then continue on with my life, an extension to that idea emerges organically.

"Wow, that would make a perfect chorus or if anything, act as a bridge to something." So I just hit record again, and this new idea gets added to the same note. Sometimes, a single Evernote for a single idea has 3-4 recordings, all spur of the moment recordings of me mumbling my way through chord progressions and vocal patterns. In aggregate, that often adds up to a complete song, albeit split amongst a few separate recordings. It takes me a little time to sift through it later, but think of it this way.

I can sit down to Pro Tools and belt out the initial idea, and create a region out of it. Then I can lay down the 2-3 attached ideas and make regions out of those. With that, I can use Pro Tools to play around with the order of those ideas and see how they can all fit together to create one complete song by positioning those regions throughout the timeline. It's using Pro Tools less as a production platform and more as a song writing tool. Adding multiple ideas to one note in an effort to keep everything neat and contained for later reference, and then using your DAW to help create the structure of your song can be a great way to get the ball rolling.

Evernote is particularly strong for lyrics as well. Lonely Nights, a track from the upcoming album, started as a quick recording while I was driving, humming a bass and rough vocal idea over the top. The cadence for the vocal line that I had in my head fit the words "lonely nights" and those words made it into the recording repeatedly because of it. I named the note Lonely Nights so that later, it would be easy to scan through my notes and identify that one idea. About three weeks later I was playing through some of the old ideas in Evernote looking for a source of inspiration for a new tune, and ran across this one. Played it, and didn't think twice of it. Moved on.

Lonely Nights in Evernote

The next day I was laying down for a nap with my daughter. When I awoke from a brief nap, I had a large part of the music from the Lonely Nights Evernote recording cycling through my mind. And the lyric, the name of that note, was attached to the chorus. To my surprise, a few other pieces of the lyrics began to fall into place. After ten minutes of laying there, I had written nearly all of the lyrics for the song, all based on that notation and my associated recall of the audio recordings. I hurried out of bed to a computer and wrote the lyrics into that same note. So now I have a note named Lonely Nights, a huge chunk of newly written lyrics, and 3-4 audio recordings of the different parts of the song that I'd hummed, all attached to one single note. I had almost everything I needed to then take all of that, organize it, and begin to create a start to finish song.

I walked out to the garage with my acoustic guitar and my tablet. And again, this is where the flexibility of Evernote shines. Because it syncs to multiple devices, my tablet automatically had the entire block of lyrics I wrote. I sat in the garage and worked out the rest of the lyrics while playing and singing everything from the note displayed on the tablet. It literally all fell into place. And having Evernote on many devices means I can pull up the lyrics and read from the tablet while I play since I certainly don't have them memorized yet. It has replaced writing lyrics on a lyric sheet by hand.

In the case of Lonely Nights, the entire song is a byproduct of my access and integration of Evernote into my song writing process. From the musical ideas, to the off-the-cuff title, to the remainder of the lyrics... if not for Evernote, this song might never have seen the light of day. And in retrospect, that would suck cause it's absolutely one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Integration of this kind of system can change how you write. It certainly has for me.