Intern’s Corner – Week Ten

Hey all!

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

Like I discussed last week, I have been writing and recording a number of songs for one of our schools. When I first began recording, I told you all about some of my frustrations about writing but I said that I would tell you all some of my tips as I got better. That is what I want to share with you all today!

Have a plan

While your song may have the lyrics and chords written, that isn’t everything that goes into a recording. Before you start, thing about what sound you have in mind. What type of instrumentation do you want? Do you want heavy drums driving the beat or a simple shaker to help keep time? Do you want piano, guitar, or both? Having a plan before you start will help save time and make the whole process much smoother.

Figure out the audio recording

When I started recording, I had a lot of issues with the audio recording. The mic I was using was not connecting to my iPad which meant my “mic” was actually just my iPad. This cause a lot of static to be in my sound. I ended up using my apple headphone mic to record. While it isn’t the best option, it did the job. I spent a lot of time working on the different settings for my mic to make sure I had a quality sound, such as the noise gate and the input levels. (Adding some reverb makes the vocals sound a lot better.)

Use a “drummer”

For me, I struggle playing with just a metronome. I spent so many takes trying to just use the metronome before I figured out how to use the “drummers” that are available. Even if I didn’t keep the drum track in my final recording, I found it much easier to keep a steady tempo with a drum beat. This saved me hours of time with just this simple fix. What took 6-8 takes before now only take 1-3.

Google is a friend

When you are trying something new, use google to help you figure it out! I am still a beginner at recording so I learned a lot from watching tutorials online. There are YouTube video’s out there for almost anything it seems now a days so why not take advantage? By using google, I was able to learn so much more in a short amount of time.

Have fun and try new things!

With each week of recording, I became more and more familiar with the basics. As a result, I began trying new things. For my song “Winter”, I used the “split” feature to make the instrumentation drop out for a measure during some parts to really bring out the vocals! I also learned how to use the fade out effect at the end of a song. As I became more comfortable, I experimented with the different buttons and learned how to add some spice to my recordings!

My most important piece of advice is that it gets easier. While I may not consider myself a “pro-recorder”, I am no where near as frustrated with recording as I was during those first few weeks. In time, I hope to become more efficient with my recording and hope to continue building my own library of my own songs!

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Nine

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all doing well.

I am already in my third month of internship! Each week, I have various assignments to complete. Over the past two months, I have been writing and recording songs for one of the schools I am working with. While I have not been able to meet them in person yet, I have been helping to create music therapy materials to send to them during this time of remote learning. These songs will serve as the materials for their third quarter.

When I first started these assignments, song writing was intimidating. I had very little experience writing and I wasn’t sure where to even start. At this point in my journey, I have written about ten songs! As I have finished writing my last song for this set of assignments, I thought I’d share with you all some of my songwriting tips!

Prepare your space

It is important to prepare before writing. When I get ready to write, I make sure to have my computer with my song template and rhyme song pulled up. Next I have my phone ready with my voice recording app to record as I write so that I can keep track of the vocal melodies that I think of. It is also best to have an instrument close by, such as a piano or a guitar. For me personally, I like to write using pen and paper so I have that in my set up as well.

Ask yourself: “what is the purpose of this song?”

Before I begin writing, I ask myself what this song will be used for and what is most important to include. I like to write down the main points of what I want in my song. For example, one of my songs was about the season winter. I knew I wanted a verse about the changes in weather, clothing we wear, and activities we might do. This gave me an outline to follow and made it much easier to stay focused on the goal.

Simple is okay!

When I first started writing, I mainly stuck to a I-IV-V chord progression. I didn’t really start adding additional chords until my last few songs. At first I felt as though my songs weren’t very good because they were so simple. However, simple can be good! Especially when you are first starting. Not every song has to be Grammy-worthy as long as it does the job you want it to do!

Just go for it!

The first few times I started writing, I would sit there staring at a blank page trying to think of the perfect melody or the perfect lyrics. I was scared to write something “bad”. As the weeks went on, I found it was easier just to start writing things down and trying it out! Just because I write it down doesn’t mean I can’t change it, but I can’t change it if I don’t write anything down.

While I still wouldn’t call myself a “professional songwriter” yet, I am proud of the growth I have made in this skill so far! I know that this is a skill I will use throughout my time as a music therapist and I am glad to be improving it so early on my journey.

Thanks for ready! Stay safe and healthy!

Cicely McCain

Intern’s Corner – Week Eight

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic week and are doing well.

I am officially in my third month of internship! Its crazy seeing the weeks pass by. It is going by so quickly! This past week, I have really begun leading more and taking more of the documentation. I have also been working with one of my supervisors on working on website creation, a skill that will come in handy in the future!

This week, I want to share something a bit more personal. Although I am seeing improvement and growth in my skills, there are some days where I struggle believing in myself. There are many doubts and “what if” questions that often run through my mind. Although it can feel like I am the only one with these thoughts, I know that others may feel similarly things in their own way.

Am I really learning and growing?

Some days it is harder to really see my progress. I am already into my third month of internship and there are still so many areas that I need to work on. Some skills I have been working on since week one and they still aren’t were I want them to be. On days when I am feeling down, I try to focus more on the areas that I feel like I have really improved and the accomplishments I’ve had along the way.

What if I don’t pass internship or the board exam?

I would definitely consider myself an over thinker. Many times, I will start overthinking things that are not yet relevant, such as the board exam. It can be hard not to stress about the future, especially when you like to plan ahead. I try to remind myself that there is no sense in stressing about it right now and instead try to redirect my energy towards the here and now.

What if I don’t make it as a music therapist?

Similar to the last question, some days I wonder if I really have what it takes to do this profession. There is a lot that goes into being a music therapist. Some days I can really psych myself out and it can be hard to convince myself that I can do this. While I may not know where I will end up in the future, I can try to focus on the ere and now. Each day, I try to give it my all and be the best music therapy intern that I can be.

I AM enough.

It is okay to have worries and doubts. However, it is not healthy to allow these thoughts and feelings to take over. On days where these thoughts and questions are constantly on my mind, I try to remind myself of the areas I have improved, the small victories I have had, and that its okay to no be perfect. I am not supposed to have all the answers or be at a professional level quite yet. Although I may not feel like it all the time, I AM enough.

Worries and doubts are something that everyone experiences from time to time. In the moment, it can feel lonely. They can also take a toll on one’s mental health. Having healthy coping skills, self care, and a support system can help to quiet these thoughts. For me, spending time with friends and looking at the good things from the week help to relieve my doubts.

With each day, I know that I am growing, even if I feel differently. I am getting closer and closer to reaching my goal of becoming a music therapist.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and healthy this week. And remember, you are enough!

Cicely McCain