Capturing Ideas: Using A Digital Recorder As A Songwriters’ Tool
Ask a surgeon what his or her most important implement is and perhaps the answer is the scalpel. For a painter, it might be a brush. But what is the most important tool for a songwriter? A guitar? A piano? A pencil?
For singer-songwriter Gary Taylor, it’s his Olympus digital recorders. He has been writing songs for the past 40 years for artists that include Anita Baker and Grover Washington, Jr.
“I am never without one,” Taylor says, citing his reliance on Olympus audio products. “I have one in my truck, one in my car, one in my studio. I’ve used Olympus going back to their microcassette days.”
“It is the proper tool for getting my ideas down. I can wake up in bed at three or four in the morning, hum an idea, record it, download it to my computer and overdub the same file.”
This revision phase is all part of Taylor’s composing process. “I’m usually searching for a potential song’s hook – the most repeatable, agreeable thing that people will be able to quote when they hear it,” he describes. “I’ll then take those ideas and begin playing them to different chord progressions. Then, it’s a matter of putting everything together… with the exception of the lyrics. They come last.”
He gave audio equipment from other manufacturers a shot but found “…they were large and cumbersome. They didn’t fit how I work. I don’t need a brick-sized recorder.”
“When I’m working on a song or an album, and I want to change something, I have my Olympus right there for changes, for capturing a new vocal idea.”
Taylor has been a musician since elementary school. The son of a jazz-loving father who sang in church choir, Taylor played clarinet, trumpet, flute and tuba in his early school years.
He joined the military, and while serving in the military sang in a doo-wop group that entertained the troops. After being discharged from the military, he studied psychology, while at the same time, learning how to play guitar and piano, resulting in an inspiration to write music. Since 1983, he has released nine albums.
“When I’m writing songs, I need to stop periodically and get my ideas recorded. I’ll have 90 or so ideas floating around. I’ll develop about 30 of those into songs. And 12 to 14 of those will end up on an album.”
Olympus provides the flexibility to keep up with Taylor’s creativity, no matter where it hits. “I’ll be in line in Starbucks and humming a line,” he says. “And someone will overhear and ask me, ‘What is that?’ And I’ll answer, ‘Something I’m writing.’
“My hope,” he laughs, “is to someday be in that same Starbucks and hear my song playing while I’m in line.