Recording Music

Recording Songs from A Pirates’ Tale

Singing and Waiting for Your Cue!

Singing and Waiting for Your Cue!

As a number of our singers have discovered, recording is a discipline unto itself! It is not easy. It definitely is not the same as performing on stage!

There is no audience and no cast interaction and so there’s a lot of energy missing. The recording talent have to create their own energy. Plus, they need to do their best to sing with the full expression of their character while staring at the right spot on the microphone. They can’t make noise with their music/word sheets which they need to hold because metal music stands bounce sound.

Jackie & Kelsey await their turn while Taylor solos

Jackie & Kelsey await their turn while Taylor solos

We have to select the smallest number of performers possible to do all the songs, due to limits of microphones and studio size. And, we have to select the ones who can best “perform on command” and hold up under the pressure.

We do a “live” style recording because we don’t have the luxury of an expensive, professional sound studio. However, it gives the recordings a livelier feel — we can all hear and see each other, singers and musicians — it can be even more difficult to record with headphones. So, appreciate those professionals!

It can be tiring and tedious and a little nerve racking. One mistake by anyone and it’s “oops, do it again.” “And again!” But our kids have truly risen to the occasion, through a number of sessions over the past year. With no training or experience, at their young ages, these kids have done an amazing job, smiling all the way. We have all been pleased and impressed at their willingness and their attitudes. And they’ve worked together and supported each other with a generosity of spirit.

Our good friend Doug Raney does an amazing job with the kids. If you ever need a great guitar teacher, give him a call!

Doug Raney educates about singing into the mic

Doug Raney educates about singing into the mic

Our pirate guys — Brandon, Ben, Zach, and Isaac — did their Pirate King song. All but Zach were new to the process, but they all did a great job. Emily and Bekah came in to do Dindercella and the Dread Pirate Roberta. Taylor, Jackie, Josh, and Kyle pretended to be 16 orphans, and our three “experienced pros,” Jillian, Aly, and Kelsey, came in to do their Where’s the Man Who Will Rescue Me song, plus sing leads and backup for a number of others.

We should have gotten pictures of the whole crew, but it’s easy to overlook when under the pressure of getting the recordings done in the time allowed. Sorry, guys! However, they all have good pictures on previous posts.

And, we’ll add those songs to the FFP site as soon as we can!

Recording Sam Shade Songs

We finally have all the Sam Shade songs “in the can”!

It has taken longer than we thought, and our battle to conquer our innovative delivery system (innovative for this industry!) has finally been won (we’re pretty sure). We have vocal tracks (for rehearsal, the “here’s how it goes” tracks) and instrumental accompaniment tracks for those who just aren’t able to muster their own musicians.

Recording with Doug is fun!

Recording with Doug is fun!

Here you see our wonderful sound engineer, Doug Raney, clowning  a bit with Zach and “the girls.” From left to right, you see Shannon furthest from the camera, then Aly and Sable. This particular session featured Zach as Sam Shade with Aly in her role as Sylvia Songbird, together singing “the blues” in their version of It Looks Like Christmas. Later, the girls recorded the full version of It Looks Like Christmas, in the roles of Thelma Typefast, Kitty Kindly, and Sallie Socialite.

Abby adds a track and Doug clowns!

Abby adds a track and Doug clowns!

Zach took on the role of gangster Bugsy Bigtime and helped the girls record the swinging Out on the Town Tonight. Next came the girls doing an entertaining job on Broadway Wannabes. Then the girls “lamented” the bluesy, jazzy That Man of Mine.

Our younger “Down Yonder Gang” managed to lay down We’re Orphans in one take! Then they made remarkably quick work of  Jesus is Christmas.

The grand finale is the upbeat The True Meaning of Christmas which brought all 7 girls together. With me on guitar and Susan Merritt on keyboard, poor Doug was outnumbered 9 to 1 in his little studio! But he just grinned and held up very well!

Vic the Stick makes it all swing!

Vic the Stick makes it all swing!

“Vic the Stick” Cleaver put the finishing touches on the recordings with a cool combo of his regular trap set and his electronic drums. Now we’re really bluesy and really swingin’!

Our good friend Victor Cleaver is a popular instructor of piano, guitar, drums, and percussion in the Denton, Texas, area. Find him at vcleaver (at) (use the “at” sign).

Doug Raney is a really cool guitar teacher, songwriter, and performer in the Denton area. Find him at

Now, to finally finish prepping the materials and get all three Sam Shades up and running!

We’re on YouTube!

FFP’s Down Yonder Girls

We decided we just had to share several of the songs from A Shakespearean Tale!

So your director came up with some storyboard ideas and one of our cast members (my artsy photographer daughter) shot the video. We did a quick immersion-style, teach-ourselves tour of iMovie and produced our very first music videos.

We did A Mother’s Song and A Good Word or Two. See them on our FamilyFriendlyPro channel on YouTube. Type the name of the song followed by Family Friendly Productions in the search bar and they will pop up.

You’ll also notice that we now have a Video Tab and both videos are available there.

Everything is original — the songs and the video footage. Even the sunrise is out our back door and so is the horse — his name is Red. Isn’t he quite the star?

Go Down Yonder is next. It should be a lot fun. Look for it soon!


Our First Recording Session!

Jessi, Kelsey, Mikayla, Jillian and Aly with Music Director Susan Merritt at the keyboard

We have a lot of marketing ideas for A Shakespearean Tale! and they all need a CD recording of the seven-song score. So,…we gathered up the “Down Yonder” girls from our summer cast and headed for the recording studio of a great friend, singer/songwriter Doug Raney.

With remarkable optimism, we scheduled two afternoons of recording. Aly, Jillian, Mikayla, Kelsey, and Jessi are all fairly young (Aly is the oldest) and new to the discipline of performing for microphones and a digital recorder. “Oops, do it again,” (and again and again) is the order of most recording sessions, as anyone familiar with the tedious task is well aware.

However, these kids work so well together and have such great attitudes (and fun) that we captured three songs on our first day in a minimum of “takes” and finished the last four songs the next afternoon with remarkable efficiency. Even so, it’s a bit of a tense, testing, and tiring  challenge for everyone, including the musicians, though our smiling sound man seemed to sail through it with ease. Actually, we all had fun and enjoyed both sessions.

FFP’s Down Yonder Girls

Now we’re working on scheduling our fiddler and mandolin player (and possibly bass and snare), George Merritt, to lay down some final tracks for several songs, and our “singing mom,” Angela Geis, to do the lead track for “Mother’s Song.” Angie had three kids in the summer cast. Her wonderful voice was too tempting not to ask her to play the role of Granma Gertie Lear and provide the maturity we were looking for in the song dedicated to “every mother who gets her strength from above.”

When it’s finished, the CD will allow us to put song samples on the website.

Songs — Singable and Memorable!

“We’re all still singing your songs around the house.” “I can’t get that song out of my head!” “We’d love a CD of the songs in the play.”

That is music to a writer’s ears! When people — adults, kids — can sing a song, remember a song, and be unable to forget a song (!), that’s when you know you’ve written a catchy or pleasant melody, with solid, tight structure, good rhythm and rhyme, and meaningful (or catchy, or clever, or memorable) words.

And if the song is singable, it almost always means it is playable — that any reasonably accomplished guitarist or pianist can sit down and play the song, many times by ear.

At FFP, we love music. Music is fun. We love to play it, and to sing it, and to teach others — especially young people — how to sing good songs. We like to write songs that represent a wide variety of genres. And we don’t “write down” to kids. We don’t do “kid music.” We do music. Young people, from kindergarten to high school and up, have remarkably sophisticated tastes in music and an ability to appreciate well-constructed songs in a variety of popular styles.

The young people we work with also enjoy jumping into “good styles gone by,” such as jazz, Big Band, soul, 50’s/60’s rock, 60’s surf, folk and folk rock, 40’s/50’s Broadway, Western, Appalachian, and so on. That kind of cultural literacy is a good thing! And it’s fun.

Another thing that can be fun is some outlandish juxtaposition — a James Brown-style song in Old Testament Egypt, sung by a silent-movie era character.