Tag Archives: acoustic

Hymn Songs – When I survey & Be Thou My Vision

My son was working on a song that required this really cool tuning, CGCGCE. I was doodling around and ended up working on a theme around a few hymns. I kept working on it and eventually played through a mixing desk with some creative reverb. What you hear is one of the many versions that I played.

I recorded with my Guild acoustic plugged in and also miked with our lovely matched pair of Rode NT55’s. Clearly I added some heavy reverb (Logic Pro’s Space Designer) and voila. I did try to get it perfect, but twas not to be, but I like the version in any case.

The two hymns are When I survey and Be Thou My Vision, which both have great meaning to me. The former reminds me of the cost paid by another to help me form better relationship, both vertically and horizontally and the latter is a fond boarding school favourite and my one chosen contribution to my funeral plans (I know; it’s a bit morose of me). To me they are both a celebration of life and what I see as important. I added a few “festive” sections in between, for light relief.

Caught in-between

A couple of years ago a friend of mine wrote a stunning play called ‘The Manhattan Taproom’, for the school where we both teach. It was a play about young women who make a journey to New York to make it in the artistic world in some form or another, be it as a musician, poet, artist, actor, dancer, writer. Most of the songs used were popular songs the girls at our school know and love and fitted the context of what was happening in the play. There is a moment in the play when one of the characters is involved in a life changing event that crushes all her dreams but there wasn’t really a song that fit that moment. I offered to write one. This is it. I hope this song expresses some of what it is to be caught in between what if and reality.


This song was written in response to a friend who lost both her parents in quick succession. I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for her which was not so much from me but how I felt God felt for her and about her. This was one of those plop-on-the-page songs. I feel it is a song that is for so many of us on the journey of life. Some of us have parents that have encouraged us and others (for whatever reason) have not. This song expresses my feeling that my Father in heaven knows, understands and sees our ‘child’ hearts – those deepest longings, fears, desires, questions – and loves us!! Just loves us!! If you ever wondered if anyone cared, despite the circumstances of life – a resounding ‘yes’ is what I hope you feel through this song!

Lost Lustre

As is heard in the opening line, I was inspired by the Psalmist in writing this song. Another source of inspiration came from a sermon on the prodigal son, and the idea of God’s extravagant grace which he lavishes upon us.
The song went through several iterations over the past year and a half, with  input from various sources. The first was a few changes in lyrics in discussion with a close friend and the second during the recording at the Gould’s house.

Breathe (Julie’s Song)

This song was written a few years ago but is dedicated to a beautiful friend of mine. Her and I talk a lot about ‘breathing’. I love our deep and meaningful conversations that we manage to have in the business and demands of our teaching jobs. In the mish-mash of our lives we sometimes crowd out the very things that give us life and hope and give our lives a sense of well-being. As a result, we end up living our lives in a smaller manner than that for which we were designed. “Breathing” can take many forms: it can be in quiet moments, celebratory happenings, family gatherings, artistic expressions, being truly who you are.

Life is too short to live small. Besides that, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the most expressive, creative, free, extravagant, generous beings that I know. As I relate more and more to them I want to live like they do. I hope this song encourages you to breathe.

There are two versions of this song – a studio version and a live version with Embers.

You Are Coming

While thinking and praying for Ngaruawahia (open the food pits) recently I discovered that the history of Ngaruawahia is actually a love story that brought two tribes together. The thought came to me that the King of kings was coming over the mountains to embrace his people. The sweet fragrance of love is His love, a love that cannot be measured. The classic love story. And we are invited to a feast (Ngaruawahia, which means open the food pits).

Bring on the feast!

Two in One

Background: When I heard that my lovely sister was soon to be married I wanted to contribute something to the wedding. I had been messing around on my nylon string guitar. I figured out a little kind of light jazz piece and thought it had something going for it. I realised it needed a bit more and so I played versions of the piece into my son’s looper and improvised to my piece in our lounge. This went on for several weeks and I figured my piece should be dedicated to my sister and her husband. I ended up playing it at the wedding while the newly-marrieds signed the register. (On the day I needed some extra music to fill in, so I did a version of  “Ian’s instrumental” which happens to also be in the key of “E”. You can also hear this piece on this website – although I had to play all by myself without the great Simon’s guitar work).

Why the name “Two in One”?  This song is really about the challenge of one life joining with another. In fact the two parts should be in “conversation” with each other, but I had to “chat” with myself. The parts are complimentary, the first part by itself would be boring, the second by itself perhaps frivolous and nonsensical. Together, I think they produce a meaningful whole. Of course, ideally marriage carries these elements of give and take, mutual deference, reciprocity and so on; the Two becoming One. It has been my experience that marriage needs lots of help these days, not only from the two hearts that choose each other, but also from those around who help to encourage the couple. My own marriage would not have made it without real friends and The friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Some recording/tech details: The guitar I used is a Yamaha Silent guitar – SLG110N. It is an odd hollow shape made for practicing really. I saw a video of my guitar heroes (Lee Ritenour) playing one and I remembered it when I saw this one on sale, special price …. what could I do? I added a guitar to the collection and we have just passed on my wife’s original Yamaha nylon string to our guitaring son (so I am still not hoarding!). I recorded this version at home without a looper. For those who know how these things work, you will realise that I start the second guitar piece just before the original “loop” is done. In fact I didn’t use a looper at all for this recording, I figured the quality would be better this way. I recorded direct in and used Logic Pro effects. I realise there are small errors. I worked really hard to get it perfect, but the wedding was in December and I haven’t put in enough practice time really… and I figured it’s the way marriage is, wonderful and a little out of time with each other and sometimes not quite in tune…… Hopefully the errors won’t distract too much. BTW thank you, Tanya, for helping to name the song and for listening to it soooooo many times while I worked on it.

Hope is Rising

This song is hopefully the new start of song writing in Hamilton, New Zealand. Simon had an idea and Tanya and Ian added some lyrical ideas. We wanted to keep it really un-religious and so, accessible to everyone. Simon laid down a very quick version  – playing a Baby Taylor guitar. The version is so quick that I missed the very start…. Perhaps there will be another more detailed version at some stage. We hope to try the song out at River Vineyard tomorrow.

At the bottom of the chord chart is the voicing of the guitar chords. Listen and hopefully you can hear the variations between related chords. Also, at the very bottom is a line that may replace the very New Zealand line about Whānau (extended family) and Haere Mai (welcome). Feel free to use lyrics for that line that work in your context.

Wandering Life

This song was written some time back, but had no bridge, which I felt it needed. As sometimes happens in songwriting, the song sat in one of my song writing books and when playing through it one day, the bridge came to me and so it was back to the recording of the song and finishing it off.

This song is actually for a young friend of mine, who has not had the most straight forward of lives. I often wonder how some people make it through when the odds are stacked against them.

Funnily enough, the recording of this song at this time also coincides with our son making some major decisions in his life, and the way forward. Sometimes one has to breathe and wait……

It is the usual crowd playing with me – Ian on all sorts of guitars, Andrew on 12 string, Simon on bass. I am always grateful for all their input. I love it when it starts off with just piano and vocal and becomes something else when everyone else gets to play.

What Have These Thoughts Done To Me

This song is about being confused and in a state where you don’t know whether things are real or if you are dreaming. I wrote it about 5 days ago.

I recorded it in my room this last Monday using my Digitech multi-effects unit as a digital input to Logic Studio. I used my Larrivee acoustic guitar and a Shure SM58 mic.

This is a “live” recording. Both parts were played in at the same time, as they would be at a live gig/concert.

This piece is in a drop tuning. If you would like tabs please use the contact page and I’ll try and get back to you ASAP.