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The original version of “Middle Class Blues” was written / copyrighted back in 1998. *Song title is a video link. If you open it as a 2nd browser window (new tab), that'll allow you to listen as you read. As is sometimes the case, I liked the song, but not the arrangement. In 2001 I remedied that situation with a partial rewrite. The revised version incorporated several new elements: a 40 second introduction a 2nd guitar part (rhythm) This new arrangement was re-recorded & that’s the version you’re hearing now. The Idea The song evolved from a guitar progression, set in minor pentatonic block form. I stumbled upon the pattern while practicing scales Built a song & melody around it Chose a topic that worked well with the music Created a lyric Subject Matter In a nutshell, it’s about the plight of middle-class America. As you might expect, it’s written from my perspective & based primarily on personal observations & experiences. Completely appropriate since songwriting is a means of creative self-expression. Lyric Got those middle class blues Well when I look at my economic state With what I make I ought to be livin’ great You gotta know my heart gets to feelin’ down When tax time comes around I pay for schools that I don’t even use I fund a war on drugs that we’re bound to lose You got know that I keep-a-waitin’ for Some way to even the score Got those middle class blues! Well now I know that I need to pay my share But while suppliers get rich from Medicare I’ve got to ask myself what it’s all about I just can’t figure it out ! The wealthy don’t pay much, cause they know the game The underprivileged can’t, the end result’s the same That leaves the middle class to pay & pay Hope we get our someday! Got the middle class blues! Copyright 1998 – Tom Hoffman Over the years, the timeless nature of this lyric has been mentioned more than once. Sadly enough, it’s as relevant now as it was in 98. Purchasing power of the middle class hasn’t improved. Middle class tax burden hasn’t decreased. I still pay into a tax base for schools that I’ve never used. NO, I’m not advocating a school voucher alternative! I simply have no children. No children = no use of schools. Our “war on drugs” has been an utter failure, yet we continue funding it with tax dollars year after year. Pharmaceutical profits continue to grow, since our government is no longer allowed to negotiate the cost of Medicare drugs. Thank you G.B.! More tax loopholes exist for the wealthy today. The poor are no more able to contribute to our tax base than they were in 98. Leaving the middle class to shoulder the lions’ share of the tax burden. The end result being – “We’ve got the Middle-Class Blues!” None of those areas has shown improvement in the past 20 years. I’m sure there are conclusions to be drawn from that, but I leave those to you. I am but a humble songwriter stating the obvious. Song Structure Introduction / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Guitar Based Verse-Refrain Section / Verse – Verse - Refrain / Ends on Repeat of Musical Refrain Musical Fundamentals “Middle Class Blues” is a guitar-based arrangement…key of A# minor. If I do say so myself, some of my more creative guitar work. When I made the decision to add that 40 second musical introduction, I doomed the song to commercial failure. If you weren’t aware, long introductions are frowned upon in the world of commercial songwriting. Since the average listener tends to focus on vocal, delaying its’ entry is tempting fate. Attention spans being what they are, your listener may go elsewhere. BUT…since I’m not a professional songwriter, my focus was on creating a well written song, not a commercially viable one! When you make your living elsewhere, you can afford to base decisions on personal preference, rather than industry norms. That being said, I did build in a little something to help with damage control...“Got those Middle Class Blues”! That single line of vocal at the beginning of the song: 1. Tells the listener that there WILL BE vocals in the song. Why does that matter? Because some people, including my wife, won't listen to instrumentals. If she thinks it’s an instrumental, she will simply turn it off. 2. Re-enforces the lyrical hook…that catchy phrase you want to stick in your listeners’ head after the song has ended. BTW in this song, it’s also the last line heard. Final Production Notes This was one of the first songs I recorded after upgrading to the digital realm. My Tascam PortaStudio 788 had a total of 8 recordable tracks…6 mono & one stereo pair (tracks 7 & 8). 4 tracks were used for guitar, all done with my SG 1 track for bass guitar 1 for vocal Drums were recorded in stereo (7/8) Performance Credits Guitars, Bass, Drums & Vocal – Tom Hoffman Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube
tunesmithth posted a blog entry in "Tips & Tidbits" (Tom Hoffman)"Pentatonic Playground” was originally called “Romantic Guy”. It had a vocal melody, lyrics and told a tongue-in-cheek tale of a dysfunctional relationship masquerading as romantic behavior. I’ve included a copy of that original lyric at the bottom of this article. “Romantic Guy” was written & recorded back in 1998. Honestly…I liked portions of the arrangement, but the song as a whole didn’t work. In May of 2009, I began work on this instrumental version (“Pentatonic Playground”). With this new format, came structural changes. The original verse sections were cut in half, making this instrumental version 48 seconds shorter than it’s’ predecessor. The 2 versions were copyrighted separately. About the Song Structurally, “Pentatonic Playground” is basic. verse / chorus / bridge / verse / double- chorus / ending It’s one of four instrumentals in my entire catalog. Of those four, two began as lyrical works, eventually becoming instrumentals. Typically, my songs evolve from one of the following: - a chord progression - a riff/pattern - a section of melody - a central theme This one grew from a riff that I stumbled on while practicing stretch scale patterns. Major pentatonic patterns to be exact…hence my choice of titles. Both verse & chorus guitar parts are variations of that pattern, played in the key of G. Musical Fundamentals The song is set in the key of G. BPM 116 Alternative genre Total run time - 2 minutes 42 seconds It’s a guitar-based arrangement, built around the primary progression mentioned earlier. Guitar #1 plays the primary riff (progression) for both verse & chorus sections. For the bridge, it changes to picking single notes within chord forms. Guitar part #2 is made up of 5ths (2-note intervals) played throughout the verse & chorus sections. It switches to strumming full chords during the bridge. The 3rd guitar part plays what was originally the vocal verse melody. For the most part, the chorus sections double guitar #1. Guitar #3 drops out for the bridge section, allowing simulated strings to take over performance of the melody. My trusty Gibson SG was used for all the guitar work. The core drum track was creating using a Boss DR-670 drum machine. I converted to synthetic drums in 2007, after 13 years of fighting with live drums in a home studio setting. Suffice to say it’s a tedious process! Despite my use of the machine, the drum parts were still written the old way…sitting behind an actual drum kit. Crash cymbals are overdubbed live, on separate stereo tracks. Unfortunately, the Boss decay rate made the machine versions sound VERY artificial. Try as I might, I was unable to live with the results, so I continue recording those the old way. Final Production Notes The recording, editing & mixing were done on a *PortaStudio 2488, a 24 track Tascam system. (*rear-center, directly under the wall poster) Performance Credits Drums, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Tambourine, Keyboard Strings & Breaths - Tom Hoffman And last but not least, here's a direct link to the YouTube video version of this article. It includes the song in its' entirety. https://youtu.be/ToAE1KtLPs8 Tom Hoffman "About Me" Muse Member pg. Tune-Smith.com Tom Hoffman YouTube “Romantic Guy” (Lyric) Verse Came home again late…third time this week Smelled like a barroom…too drunk to speak Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Chorus Romance...is a temporary patch on a bleeding life! Good chance….that it fills the vacant place in her heart, for just one… Bridge …Night He’ll make her feel like she’s a queen He’ll be her slave for a night He know…tomorrow brings Time enough…to spread his wings They’ll pretend for now that things are alright Verse Lost his whole paycheck…out at the track Borrowed more money…to win it back Next day he’s sorry…what a surprise! Sends her some roses…Romantic Guy Double Chorus Copyright 1998- Tom Hoffman