I wrote "Vanity" in 2004 after visiting the "Kunsthistorisches Museum" in Vienna where I was fascinated by a little wooden sculpture that depicted Vanitas
. Now I decided to add an acoustic version of my song to my FolkBernd setlist. The lyrics go:
Vanity, you do look old
the smooth skin of your youth got definitely stained
age spots and wrinkles where once a proud beauty reigned
there's no charm and no grace
in your old worn out face
you've lost your good looks - there is no denying
the time you've wasted is why you should be crying
Vanity, it feels so cold
Vanity, no use for gold
what once seemed important is of no use today
riches and elegance won't serve you on your way
let the past be the past
gold and silver won't last
your heirs will fight over what you will have left them
where you're headed to no-one will care for your gems
Vanity, you had been told
when you look in the mirror
you spot a disturbing shape
like a skull grinning at you
knowing there's no escape
Vanity, you look distraught
you've had all the chances a human life provides
never you seized them, instead you swept them aside
you can't call back your youth
you can't fight off the truth
your fight against time's been lost from the beginning
when the last bell chimes you'll know there is no winning
Vanity, you never fought
I actually intended to make this first stanza that I had come up with the chorus:
cold as the mountains that reach for the sky
tall as the small man asserting his claim
sharp as the gambler who wins without fight
calm as the hunter as he's taking aim
but then I came up with another that uses the very same meter and rhyme pattern:
fierce as a cornered and desperate rat
mean as the liar who needs an excuse
frantic as those who've been caught in the act
dashed as the lover who wanted the truth
You can buy 'me' if you like. Worldwide. Just click on the image
I had to use my proper name, "Bernd Harmsen", instead of "RockBernd Harmsen" because CD Baby does not allow to use a different 'name' on the cover.
My working title for my new compilation was "RockBernd IV". But since I am
RockBernd, at least sometimes, I decided to use a less generic title this time.
The new 'album' contains titles that I recorded since "RockBernd III" as well as remixed older titles from all three former RockBernd compilations. All titles are remixed, more crisp, and decidedly louder
than before (yes, I've got the knack at last!). I tested them on different devices - the most 'critical' being my hifi equipment - so the songs should sound okay everywhere.
Apart from the quality of my own performances my lacking skills with regard to mixing and mastering have impaired my song 'productions'. These days I actually invested a little in learning more about that aspect of songwriting. I had several people try to improve one of my mixes and explain why and what they did differently from me. Fortunately, only one actually wanted the money I offered
That left more money for a few little investments that others had recommended: a better microphone for recording my vocals, Mike Seniors book "Mixing Secrets for the small studio" (Burlington, MA 2013), and a studio head phone.
Other than expected I actually learned what mistakes to avoid rather than how to do it properly. But I learned quite a bit nonetheless. Namely, that I could - and should - be less restrained with regard to using the EQ and the compressor.
Nobody told me the main reason why my own mixes sound so low: that at the end of mixing and mastering the tracks you should put a LIMITER* on the result to cut off the loudness peaks that occur here and there in the mix. After that you can - yet again - raise the loudness to its maximum (0dB) so the resulting track sounds much louder all over. A while ago someone had mentioned this but I must have missed the point then (probably because the handling of my software is rather clumsy in this respect). Gaining loudness proved to actually be the most important improvement apart from bringing the vocals more to the fore.
Admittedly, recording, mixing, and producing will never be my favorite activities with regard to creating music, but I will observe some main aspects of mixing and mastering that I have learned about, so my recording may sound a little less crappy in the future
I remixed 20 RockBernd songs and actually tested them on several devices (my hi-fi boxes proved most crucial, the ear phones are most forgiving, my new studio head phones reveal excessive bass tracks). Of course it's still garage rock in its true sense but now it should work sufficiently well anywhere.
*a limiter is a compressor that only handles - reduces - the loudest parts of the mix. I still use it sparingly to gain about 3dB on average. That's enough to make my new mixes work okay on my hi-fi equipment. I am still not a fan of loudness at all costs. I think that is because I used to hear a lot of classical music. I remember how happy I was when CDs could handle a dynamic of 24dB so certain critical pieces of classical music sounded more natural. One of the mixes I received on my request had a dynamic of just 6dB! Obviously, rock and pop music can do with little dynamic - but that sure was going too far!