Electronic Sea Shanty

This track was made for KVR Audio’s One Synth Challenge #21 (October 2010 edition). I thought I’d get in early. This little known Synth sounds great but gave me a LOT of trouble. Majken’s Chimera VST. It had a uniquely maritime feel that I’d never heard before so I thought I’d do a sea shanty ambient piece.

Update for Jason and friends

You can visit Jason’s site at Music Software Training.

dad with benIt’s not really a sea shanty. My father died 3 years before I did this and his old wooden boat (that he bequeathed to me and the family) was slowly sinking into the river.

I started with a simple midi loop. I can usually only comfortably get to 4 bars without sounding repetitive, so this is pretty rudimentary. Once i got the four bars going, I simply tried each and every preset of Majken’s synth to get the rest of the music. It’s probably in C, but I really don’t know. [12/04/16 Actually in the comments, Amanda has identified the song as the Beach Boys’ Sloop John B]

The synth has such a mournful tone, that as I was building the track, I couldn’t help thinking about my father – lost out at sea.

eddie lynch

Eddie Lynch

Dad used to sing a song that I’ve never been able to remember (or find on the net) “All Aboard the John Dee” about a boat lost at sea with “Grandfather and me” and when I was 4, it would make me sad and cry.

I was very close to my maternal grandfather. He used to take me across the Mersey (I’m from Liverpool) every Saturday morning to New Brighton. There there was a fair with many roundabouts. I loved playing the old WW2 submarine game, where you had to time your missile fire. Grandad had to lift me to view the game and play properly.

The loss of my Grandfather (who we left back in Liverpool) and my Father all came rushing back to me with this piece. There’s the foreboding of death, whines from tall masts, a ship’s foghorn. This all reminded me of growing up in the port of Liverpool. But Electronic Sea Shanty reminds me of a place I’ve never been to. maybe it’s a small boat with surviving soldiers floating through a ruined sea battlefield. Boats burning quietly all around.

It looks like Madjken has revised his (Synthedit produced) synth so that it plays nice in Live.

Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts and how I make make this a better tune. I’d love to revisit this tune again and make it really emotional – not just “accidentally” emotional.

15 thoughts on “Electronic Sea Shanty

  1. Syd says:

    (best pirate voice) arrrrrhhh me heartys tis a good ting dat sea shanty……..arrrhhhh

    good piece Ed. like the start of it….

    now im feeling peckish ….may time for some crab sticks and a couple of prawns……….

  2. December says:

    I didn’t like the first bit much but after about 2:40 it improved a lot for me. I suffer tinnitus and the first half just really seemed to be trying to amplify it. I wanted more flow in the last half and less dis-harmonic screech, but the concept is there for a solid foundation.

    • Thanks December. Nice feedback. I think you’re right. I bring the tune in way too late (I did it with Babushka too). And also those high frequency “sail” wires are a bit high in the mix. So I’ll try to fix that too. Your tinnitus, sadly, I can’t fix 🙁 – but thank you for this most useful feedback. It really helps.

      Others – take note. Specific feedback like December’s is golden!

  3. Yeah, the woodwind sound that reoccurs [comes in around the 50 second mark] tends to be a little too rasping/distorted which, to me, detracts from the overall quality – sounds like it is being played through my phone or through my crap 4″ speakers that I blew up today – had to check I was listening through the Krix speaker towers!. Perhaps drop the volume a bit/round out the sound and add moree reverb to it as well as a touch of delay to help develop the long drawn out sound without necessarily relying on a distorted sound…

    The echoing ‘bubble’ type sounds work well – perhaps a little more slap back echo on these and automate the rate so that they drop down in pitch a bit as they fade out. The rest of the sounds are reasonably rounded, and overall the composition certainly creates a melachonic sea-scape.

    • Gotcha! It’s a kind of distorted VST anyway, but maybe I can tweak it. Also that sound is way too high in the mix which I think is what December was saying. It;s meant to be ships masts or wind blowing through them (I need more subtlety on the wind also).

      More delay as well as reverb you reckon? The reverb is maxed out on Kjauerhaus’ Classic Reverb so maybe I’ll double up on that. I’ll see anyway.

      Yeah – maybe I can vary the pitch. I’m only allowed to use FREE VSTs for this, so I might try Luxonix FX.

      Very VERY useful feedback (as I thought) Steve, so thanks very much for that.

  4. TJK says:

    It really does have a rather nautical, underwater feel to it, though maybe I’m just thinking that because you’ve already said as much… I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of whale song, for some reason.

    • Yeah, there’s definitely “something” nautical about it. But a title does influence the whole song – as, I find – does an album cover. Even the 640 x 640 pixels on my Nano.

  5. imho, i enjoy the raspy overtones and the sailing underwater feel that transpires.
    leaves me with a feeling of earthly consciousness and cosmic mystery. additionally, parrot birdie found it interesting enough to introduce a chirp communique while listening. ~ (sometimes negative feedback is more constructive for change, but what can i say, … i liked it)… ambient electronica … also happens to be a fave of mine.

  6. The song you are thinking of is by the Beach Boys – Lyrics below.
    Cheers, Amanda

    Sloop John B Lyrics
    from Collection

    We come on the sloop John B
    My grandfather and me
    Around Nassau town we did roam
    Drinkin’ all night, got into a fight
    Well, I feel so broke up, I want to go home

    So hoist up the John B’s sail
    See how the mainsail sets
    Call for the captain ashore
    Let me go home, let me go home
    I wanna go home, yeah yeah
    Well, I feel so broke up, I wanna go home

    The first mate, he got drunk
    And broke in the captain’s trunk
    The constable had to come and take him away
    Sheriff John Stone
    Why don’t you leave me alone? Yeah yeah
    Well, I feel so broke up, I wanna go home

    So hoist up the John B’s sail
    See how the mainsail sets
    Call for the captain ashore
    Let me go home, let me go home
    I wanna go home, let me go home
    Why don’t you let me go home?
    Hoist up the John B’s sail
    Hoist up the John B
    I feel so broke up, I wanna go home
    Let me go home

    The poor cook he caught the fits
    And threw away all my grits
    And then he took and he ate up all of my corn
    Let me go home
    Why don’t they let me go home?
    This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on

    So hoist up the John B’s sail
    See how the mainsail sets
    Call for the captain ashore
    Let me go home, let me go home
    I wanna go home, let me go home
    Why don’t you let me go?

    Read more: Beach Boys – Sloop John B Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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