4 min read

Montmorency Falls

Green Ring Montmorency Falls
I got drenched taking this picture

Time for the first song off the Québec EP! Read this post if you want some context, but the TLDR is I spent a month in Québec writing music last fall.

One of my favorite days from the trip was visiting Montmorency Falls. It was obviously on my list of writing locations, but it still ended up being kind of impromptu. Checking the forecast one night showed the following day was only one of two with sun for the next couple weeks (it turned out better than that luckily). Knowing I should take advantage of the weather by hitting one of the "must-see" locations, I grabbed a ticket for Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.

My first stop was left of the falls where you can enjoy a great view from the bottom. I took it all in for a bit and recorded the sound with my trusty Zoom H1n (fun fact: any white noise you hear in this song is sampled from the falls). A little half wall looked like a good temporary studio spot, so I sat down with my laptop and opened Ableton. No great idea revealed itself after playing around with some synth sounds for a bit, so I started moving again after only succeeding in selecting a kick sample.

On the other side of the falls, you can get really close if you want (picture at the top of this post) before climbing the long staircase to the top. It was worth grabbing a few more recordings, and I somehow avoided ruining my field recorder in the mist. I thought about stopping for another try with Ableton, but decided taking out my computer anywhere near the "splash zone" probably wasn't a good idea.

There is a little park at the top of the stairs. You can't see the waterfall, but you can definitely hear it. A picnic table on the far side with a nice view of the St Lawrence River called my name for lunch and a second go at getting a song idea off the ground.

The first element that stuck (other than a basic drum groove... and my peanut butter/honey sandwich) is the sound you hear right at the beginning of the song. I found it just flicking through presets in Cycles by SLATE + ASH. After some minor tweaking, I flattened it down to audio. The result sounded really cool, so I followed that process a few more times with different sounds for some additional ear candy. I never really work like that to be honest, but something about being "on location" and wanting to get an idea going quickly made it the way to go; find a good sound, tweak it, commit to audio and move on. It's how I ended up working a lot in Québec actually.

Next was the main melody you hear throughout the song. It started as a few random notes played with Tape Synths by Blankfor.ms with some automation changing the dynamics. It sounded like this:

Montmorency Falls melody sample

I sampled this to audio, chopped/pitched/reversed a bit here and there, and the final melody came about in a few minutes. Then I needed a chord progression to give the melody some context. My go to for this is the imagiro piano. I also used a simple bass sound from my Wander DIVA pack. I normally like to play around on the piano for this part, but my travel midi keyboard only has a range of 25 keys (some of which don't work anymore) so I just worked in the Ableton piano roll. After that it was just about refining and arranging out the idea.

There was obviously more production and mixing that happened after the fact (let me know if you have any questions in the comments), but that's how the original song idea came about. After working for a bit, I continued walking around/over the falls, taking pictures and recording sounds. It was a very fulfilling day spent with nature and making music... the dream :)

I'm so excited to finally have this song out in the world tomorrow for you to hear!

If you've joined the community here, enjoy an early listen below along with a sneak peak of the visualizer I made with footage from the day. Hope you enjoy!

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