Tag Archives: harmonies

Family Festival Spotlight – Casey McCleary on Harmonies and Guitar!

Casey McCleary on harmonies and guitarWhen inspiration suddenly struck our family in the form of “Stay in the Pool” early in the summer, we knew we had to arrange, record and release that song quickly to get it out to radio while it could still be enjoyed in summer. A few nights after the first draft of the lyrics and tune were written, I asked the band to drop our agenda of rehearsing existing songs to concentrate on this new number. Casey came up with a classic doo-wop-soul harmony that really gives the song a special summertime feel. She put her stamp on the song, just like that!

Casey was brought into the band with a difficult task, to carry out the parts that were arranged with a previous harmony vocalist and be able to own those harmony parts, and she proved in the audition process she could do it. She battled through the nerves anyone would have in their first gig with a new, original band. But now, “Stay in the Pool” was a turning point because her creative abilities were on full display, to imagine harmonies that hadn’t occurred to me. Casey continues to thrive in the band as she comes up with new harmonies to our new songs and truly owns the parts that were created before her. Watching her stage presence develop along with her familiarity with our music has been a pleasure.

We gave “Cross-country Casey” her nickname because of the extraordinary amount of travel she does for her job. It’s pretty typical that she’ll make a day trip to Michigan or Ohio for work and then come to rehearsal. I’m just glad her busy schedule includes time to make music with the Jungle Gym Jam. She is also actively involved with the Verona Drum Circle and occasionally performs solo acoustic at the Children’s Institute in Verona.

Casey will take the stage with me at the release celebration of our album “Everyone’s Invited!” this Sunday, Jan. 26 at Just Jake’s at 11:30 AM.

The Jungle Gym Jam Teams Up with Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke at Little V.I.P. Concert at Crossroads

Montclair, N.J. – Jason Didner, host of the Cool Rockin’ Daddy Video Show (www.coolrockindaddy.tv) and his band, the Jungle Gym Jam (www.junglegymjam.com), along with Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, (http://keywildeandmrclarke.com), winners of the Parents Choice, Gold Awards, will provide a morning of live “Rock ‘N Roll for Kids and Their Families,” as part of the Little V.I.P. Concert series, on Saturday, December 7, at 10:30 a.m., at Crossroads, 78 North Avenue, Garwood, N.J.

Key Wilde & Mr Clarke

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

Parents and kids will rock to favorite tunes from the Jungle Gym Jam such as “Jungle Gym Jamming,” the classic “This Little Light of Mine,” and a new piece — “The People Exhibit at the Zoo” — a humorous take on what zoo animals think as the people pass by. Parents, grandparents, and kids will enjoy the fast-paced music event that encourages dancing, interaction, and making new friends, while sharing messages of anti-bullying, kindness, and friendship.

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Drawing on many traditional folk music styles Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke will headline the concert, performing original humorous upbeat songs with an emphasis on guitar and tight vocal harmonies. The audience can expect to hear the songs “Animal Alphabet”, “Railroad Medley”, “King of the Town” and “Raised By Trolls” from their recent release Pleased To Meet You in addition to classic Sirius XM Favorites like “The Rattling Can”, “Mary the Fairy”, “Favorite Names” and “Pepito.”

Tickets are priced at $7.00 per adult, $5.00 for children age 2 and up, and children under 2 are free. Attendees are asked to bring a new, unopened toy to donate to families still affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For further information, contact Crossroads at 908.232.5666 or visit www.xxroads.com.

About Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam: Kids around the world are experiencing the sounds of Jungle Gym Jam (www.junglegymjam.com), a kindie band founded by Jason and Amy Didner, in their families’ kitchens and cars, over the radio airwaves, Internet radio and podcasts as numerous DJ’s spin the band’s tunes carrying messages of anti-bullying, active play and fair play. Their debut album, “Everyone’s Invited,” will launch in January 2014. The Jungle Gym Jam has appeared on the “No Cover” TV show for TV-34 Montclair, a municipal access station where they were interviewed by host Gail Prusslin and then gave a live performace. This episode can be viewed in its entirety at http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T01411&video=170029

About Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke: Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke (www.keywildeandmrclark.com) are known for their wildly imaginative songwriting and distinctive harmonic sound. Their 2009 release Rise and Shine won a Parents’ Choice GOLD Award, and their EPs Hey, Pepito! and Happy Holidays attracted national acclaim and radio play. Their kid-friendly and sophistically funny songs get regular rotation on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live and WXPN FM’s Kids Corner radio, among many other shows nationwide. At theaters including Symphony Space to World Café Live and at more informal venues including Kindiefest and the NYC summer parks series, the dynamic duo delivers their whimsical story-songs with involving, visually dynamic performances.

The Making of “Stay in the Pool” – Part 2 of 3

…continued from Part 1 of 3

Studio Night

We carried a lot of excitement into the studio, knowing what a strong song we had. We also brought a great deal of confidence to the session, having done a full-band session before when the band was very new.

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Judy (bass) and Ross (drums) have become very adept at working out nuances to enhance the rhythms for each record that we make, experimenting with starts and stops that serve the song and communicating very clearly with each other and the rest of the band how we can work the part together.

Casey brought a sense of calm and quiet confidence that seemed to elevate all our abilities to do our best work. Our producer, Dave Cushing, kept the mood light and celebratory while also challenging us to keep up the pace and energy of each song from opening note to ending tag line.

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We had a very specific goal for our studio recording: record Judy’s bass and Ross’ drums live in the room. My guitar and vocals and Casey’s guitar performance would just be a means of giving Ross and Judy a frame of reference for where we are in the song and capture Ross and Judy’s genuine experience of recording their parts while the whole band plays together live in the studio. This process is known as “recording the basic tracks.”

Once we got a basic track that made us happy, we recorded the group shouts – the “YEAH!” after the lyric “‘Til my fingers get pruny” and the “NO!” response to “Do you think that sounds looney?” We also recorded the “POLO!” responses to the “Marco!” shouts in my lead vocal. It was definitely a loose, fun moment shared among the whole band after having been under the microscope to deliver the perfect musical performance.

Doing our Homework

We were coming up on the weekend and Dave had travel plans. He and I were both reluctant to let several days pass without progress on this time-sensitive tune, so we came up with the idea that I would rent his professional-grade studio microphone and pre-amp (a device that gives a microphone that full and warm tone you’re accustomed to hearing on professional recordings). Casey and I could then record into my Mac at home (I use GarageBand) along with Ross’ and Judy’s basic tracks, which Dave had captured with a Windows PC using Sonar audio recording software. I record the final guitar tracks into GarageBand from home because I can get just as good a result at home as in the studio and not have to mind a time limit; this time the vocal was to get the same treatment.

Casey came over on Sunday night and we were off to a fast start. Casey added her extremely tasteful doo-wop backing vocals in the verses, some nice ooh’s and ahh’s were they would fit right in, and some big harmonies in the chorus that give that section of the song the feel of a big show-stopper.

Recording a second harmony vocal layer below the original layer would prove much more challenging. Casey would take on the second layer as well as the first to ensure a consistent blend of voices.  It took hard work and a willingness to try out different options that would blend with both Casey’s upper harmony and my lead vocal. At the end of 3-1/2 hours hammering out the vocals for the song, we were ready to capture Casey’s acoustic guitar part, which we recorded easily. Casey then moved over to the keyboard, where we chose the tone of a bright grand piano to complement the guitar parts. She laid out a rhythm pattern she had in mind, which inspired me to create a piano track of my own that incorporated her idea with some of my own, including slides down the keyboard and arpeggios, which are chords that are broken out to individual notes played one-at-a-time to imply the chord, instead of being played all at once.

Casey went home at around midnight. I had work the next morning, but knew that I’d have to return the rented mic the next night, as its owner would need it in the studio. So, I set out to record lead vocals at midnight on Sunday night, feeling a slight vocal strain from guiding Casey through her parts which were outside my vocal register. By 2:00 AM, I was re-recording the song’s chorus, piece by piece and was close to finishing the lead vocal – and then I heard something unusual for 2 AM: footsteps upstairs. Amy had woken up to hear Peanut wide awake and calling out for me. My last shot to record the vocals at home had seemingly come to a screeching halt. I tended to Peanut, giving her milk, reading books to her and starting her favorite movie, “Yogi Bear,” which we must have watched together over a dozen times by now. 90 minutes later, Peanut told me she was ready to try going to bed again. By the time she fell asleep, it was 3:30 and I insisted on completing the take. When I went downstairs to re-record my chorus part in one last spot, I found that the 90-minute downtime helped my voice bounce back a little, so I re-recorded all the choruses to make them sound consistent. Now, I knew there was precious little time for any sleep before having to get up and go to work. I also had a sense I should squeeze in some time the next night to re-do the vocals before returning the equipment to the studio.

Continue to Part 3 of 3…

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