The Thickness of Now

This song is kind of normal sounding to me, kind of a simple melody, and it makes me wonder if it is original enough, or more directly put, have I inadvertently borrowed someone else’s tune.

That’s question number one. Question two is are the vocals clear enough? I find I cannot tell after I listen to it so much. And then any other comments welcome.

Revised based on your feedback-

Version 3-

The song idea was inspired by a Google News science article which dealt with the precise nature of time, how it is understood in an Einsteinian and quantum theory of the universe. I may not be able to comprehend clearly what they were trying to describe, but I think I capture the gist of the idea, that point 0, the present, on a timeline, is neither positive or negative, and it yet it has a thickness of sorts, not 0.

The Thickness of Now by Steve Bancroft

We think of the past as the time left behind
That we cannot go back to
And into the future we move straight ahead
Not knowing where it will lead to

We think that we live in the time in between
To float like a boat in a swift moving stream
Applying our rudder to steer our way clear
Of obstacles and nearer our wishes and dreams

And so we look forward but all we can see
Is based on the past and on guesses proceed
Our consciousness surfs on a wave of spacetime
And life is comprised of every memory

So what is the present, the moment called now
It isn’t the past or the future somehow
But it’s everything, isn’t it, that ever was, you see
And everything that forever will be

So how long does it last, this moment we act
Is it shorter than the blink of an eye
Or longer than the time when from the moment we see
To the time when we feel sadness or glee

For scientists have thought that it was like a knife
That cut the past from the future
But they rarely considered the width of the blade
Or the present perhaps as the suture

Is now the world that never fully heals
Is yesterday infecting tomorrow
And all we can do is apply endless triage
And hope some more time we can borrow

And what does it mean to the grand scheme of things
Understanding the nature of time somehow
It probably really doesn’t mean a darn thing
But I still wonder about the thickness of now

I still wonder about the thickness of now

Hey Steve - nice lilting melody in this one. I think your voice sounds quite good in this register.

To answer your questions:

  1. I can’t think of any song that has a similar melody. I’m sure there is one, but it sounds individual enough to me not to matter.

  2. The vocals are clear enough to make out the words, although they could be greatly improved. The reverb you have on them is clouding them and making them sound overly roomy. They actually sound like they are “behind” the other instruments. Try adding about 60ms of pre-delay and backing off the reverb slightly to bring the vocal “forward”.

Other points.
The drums are overly busy - try simplifying them. Keep the fills fairly sparse. As a guide, good drummers mostly use fills mainly for transitions from one section to another. “Caveman” fills are often the best and easiest to pull off convincingly in rock music.

The second last “punchline” phrase needs a less clunky and more flowing delivery. Don’t worry about doing something “predictable”. The ear longs to hear you “bring it home” at this point.

Hope that helps!

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Steve, I just like your arrangements. I agree with Andrew about the drums, but I really like your guitars especially. I know you’ve said before you don’t play: I can’t recall what you use for guitar. I’m thinking you use UJAM, right?

It just kills me how real they sound. Way cool.

All great advice, Andrew, and I really want to try what you suggest on the vocals. I really struggle with the vocal effects, and think one day I will figure something out and be able to use it all the time.

As for the drums, they are quite busy. I’m a terrible drum programmer, so I get easily carried away.

But it is nice to know the melody itself doesn’t sound too vanilla. I will look at the last “punchline” phrase, it didn’t feel as comfortable as I had hoped it would.

Thanks for the critique, Tesgin. The arrangement just fell into place, mostly worked. I lost the third part when Reaper crashed (my old laptop), but it wasn’t really fitting well anyway, and the retry felt much better, although I couldn’t sing with it, which also probably was an accidental arrangement bonus!

I do use UJAM, two Amber (acoustic guitar) strumming patterns panned 50% left and right. And I used Sonik Synth 2 and Alchemy for the “lead” line and that arpeggio line. It altogether sounded a little jingly jangly to me, but that felt kind of folksy. I really can’t play, so for me it is a godsend. I like to believe I’m developing a style playing them, though, that helps them sound more real.

Absolutely you are. Very cool, actually. It’s not a Band-in-a-Box kind of sound. This is impressive.

Hah! Some oldies but goodies. I also have Sonik Synth and Sample Tank (never really cared for them though: the interface was too goofy tiny print, and the samples were hit and miss for me), and also Alchemy. I LOVE Alchemy. The coolest sounds, from textures to strings to plucked instruments. Couldn’t believe they went by the wayside. Can’t recall: weren’t they bought up and then built into Logic or something? Don’t remember who it was.

Yeah, I remember talking with you now about UJAM. I remember trying it and having problems with loop points and some kind of piano-click sound when samples played. But man, I’m sure not hearing that in your stuff! I didn’t use Amber though. That’s got a nice sound.

Hello I first read your lyrics. Lots of things to think about for sure. Before I actually played the song here are my thoughts. Based on what you have posted for songs before, I was wondering if you had changed up a few things folks had brought to your attention before.
Too much reverb
Song to busy
Song cant breathe because there is no lift of defined chorus.
No bridge to step sideways and reflect

Those are all tweakable things that can be messed with. You had me with the first guitar panned hard to the side. The singing started and then you jumped on with the other ear. I would have like to hear that intro guitar copied and pasted to the other side and maybe delayed a bit. Run that out to the 43 second mark and keep the volume down. The vox up to that point works. After that your vocal is just not as good as that first section. I said this before to you that your voice has charm. I also think that if you are letting all that background play loudly, your vocal will not fair as well because you can’t totally hear yourself when recording. You might try letting one track play as background and a click.
The song doesn’t have to sound normal to you. It just needs to breathe and surprise us. Good luck and thanks for reviewing my song

Thanks for listening and such specific advice. For me I am always very unsure about which way to take a new idea forward, and most of the time I ask you guys to listen at that stage. In this case I think I have some new goals to strive for in this one, maybe I’ll give it a try soon. I’m going to let it sink in and with fresh ears.

Yeah, Sonik Synth was my first VST library, I bought for next to nothing as I had no money at the time, and likewise was disappointed how cheesy most of the sounds were. But that being said, there were so many, and some of the guitars were not so bad. I find I can use it to still in combination with other VSTs like Alchemy. I was only able to buy the Guitar Mutations module before they abruptly closed the doors, which I wish they hadn’t. They had nice, colorful, quality and complex textures, and now they are kind of rare and exotic. I believe Apple Garageband somehow got them, at least some of them, and I am not a Mac person. I’m not sure what I might buy next VST wise, but maybe when Black Friday comes around this year I’ll be ready to pick up something cool for a bargain again.

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Thanks, everyone, @Tesgin, @ColdRoomStudio, @feaker, for your suggestions, and although I may not have followed them precisely, I think I addressed many of the basic problems you noticed. I added the new version in the top post.

I may not have fixed the vocal sounding like it wasn’t in the same room adequately, Andrew, but I did apply a little smear to it, and I think it has made a subtle difference.

I also simplified the drums quite a lot- they were really out of control beyond even Keith Moon, and in more parts cut them out completely. And at the ending I think they feel like they end with more control.

And everyone agreed the second half had all kinds of problems, and they related to the vocals conflicting with the repeat of first half’s music, not to mention the wild drums. And Paul especially was wishing for less busyness, and so I added for the second half a strings with no drums or bass section, which allowed the busy ending to feel more appropriate, like a crescendo.

For some reason, to me, without having to rerecord any vocals at all, they sound like they are both more in tune and time now. Yes, they get a little loud during the strings, but they are clear and I kind of liked their new impact.

So what you now hear required no new bars, just playing them with different instruments in spots, which is cheating, I suppose, but it is always a challenge to preserve a simple song’'s simplicity whilst simultaneously beefing up its arrangement.

Bottom line, I never would have made these changes without your help, and thanks! Of course, I hope you like it better. And I probably should get ready for the second round of critiques!

Hey, that’s quite an improvement. That guitar just kills me. Sounds authentic.

I got three things for you, Steve…

Your mix of the band is really cool. Can hear everything clearly, except the bass. Your low end is weak. Boost that. Bring it up.

Bring the vocals down. They’re not “sitting” well with the band. Makes it sound like you’re singing to a track. The band is thinner (cuz of the low end) and the vocals are thick. Reduce the low-mids some more in the vox, and bring the HPF up a smidge. Make it thinner. Add some verb.

Third is a little ReaTune on the vocals to tighten up the notes. Seriously, I’ve found that to make such a difference on my tracks. Have you used ReaTune at all? It’s pretty impressive.

This is really starting to come together. The changes you made, made a significant difference, my friend. Likin’ whattcha got goin’ on here! :+1:

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Easy to do.

I’ve never tried ReaTune, but I will check it out. And I will fiddle with the vocals some more. They originally were too thin with loud spots, and now they may be too loud due to some effect I’ve overused but without the too loud peaks. Better singers probably don’t get too close to the mic, or too far away. Thank goodness for the tools we have!

I’ve tried to minimize the reverb, but I might add a tiny bit. My thinking is I need to make very small adjustments because it is so easy to overshoot and then have a new problem.

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Spot on. I am particularly sensitive to mixes with too much verb on the vocals. A little bit can be helpful though.

Also, thin out the vox, move 'em down in the mix, ReaTune them, and play around with a slapback delay: This video gives a good overview of how to set up in ReaDelay.

SlapBack delay can be so subtle you won’t hear the delays, but the effect on the voice can be pretty impressive. I think it’ll help it blend in more too.

Just a thought.

Oh, and the ReaTune thing. This is a quite powerful tool. It’s not Melodyne, but for what it does, it’s just as effective. I tried a sample of Melodyne and wound up not purchasing, cuz ReaTune is so fast and effective.

If you’re interested in an excellent Kenny Gioia tutorial on how to tune vocals with ReaTune, check this out. It’s actually pretty simple to fix. Might take 15 min.

NOTE: This plugin will take up some CPU. After you fix your track, freeze it.


I think your song writing is getting better. You’re getting close to hitting the mark on the chorus. The verse sounds like it needs a few breaks between vocals. The vocals just keep coming at the listener too constantly. Just a little break between phrases every once in awhile would make this more palatable. Also, there are a few spots where your vocal timing is off. These spots can be very distracting to the listener. You might be able to line these timing issues up in your DAW but I find it can be difficult to do that so when I have timing issues, I just do a retake.

The music sounds good but the drums don’t fit the song and they seem to conflict with the music at times. When I listened to this for the first time, yesterday or the day before, I thought the acoustic guitar sounded like a virtual instrument (I listened through my AKG headphones). Today I’m listening to your song through my TV, hooked up to my laptop and the guitars sound quite real and good. I don’t know why there is such a discrepancy in what I’m hearing now from what I heard the other day…It’s probably that the TV I’m listening on doesn’t give me the same detail as my headphones AND the TV volume is lower than what I had running through my headphones. Also, it probably comes down to my perception is different than it was the other day.

At 2:06 the vocals would sound much better if you pulled the volume down so that they are balanced with the music. They’re a little too loud as they are. I agree what Tesgin has mentioned about the vocals being too thick and full in comparison to the music. It makes the vocals sound like karaoke. I’d try to take some of the meat of the vocal and use less effect. Pull the vocals down and if they need to cut through the mix, then boost some frequencies between 2 to 5 Khz.

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Yup. Exactly. :+1:

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I am using a 6/8 beat with a simplify / restrained setting for the most part now, although I left a few wilder spots just to let the “drummer” feel like he was able to show off! Nonetheless, I’ll listen to them again and see if I can smooth them out some more.

I do line up timing quite a bit, but I do leave it off a tiny bit in spots to give it a more natural feel. But I can certainly make some adjustments on the worst and have plenty left to convey that natural organic imperfection I aspire to! I’m not a good singer, and every new attempt will reveal new spots, so for me I must depend on editing, only retaking where absolutely necessary. For instance, I sang the word “world” instead of “wound”, and I was considering inserting the corrected word; however, I realized that I mentally preferred “world” because “wound” was kind of darker a connotation than I really desired, so I am leaving it as sung!

So far as more breaks between lines, it is a great rule of thumb, and I probably broke it here too much. I find that the phrasing and vocal melody which takes the words and fits to the music often has a mind of its own or not. In this song, it just came about in a rather pleasant pattern, which is better than the majority of times when it is a meandering mess that is very hit and miss.

I am hoping to try for another version soon, today or tomorrow. It’s quite a learning experience, even though the lazy part of me wishes someone else could just do all this work! But I do believe some of this is sticking, little by little.


I know exactly how you feel. I often want to just leave things alone instead of doing a retake, but I find that almost always when I go back and correct my mistakes, the recording benefits from it. Though I’m almost always fearful of messing things up, it rarely if ever happens.

You’re getting better at this stuff. Don’t be afraid to tweak things.

Thanks again, @Tesgin, @Wicked, @feaker, @ColdRoomStudio, for your sage advice. I justed added Version 3 in the top post incorporating your latest suggestions.

I did use sparingly ReaTune, probably improves the ending and a couple other spots.

I did turn down the overall volume a tad and made some more targeted adjustments. My hope is it is loud enough still to be clearly understood but not quite so karaoke!

I switched to a slapback effect from a subtle vocal enhancement in Boz Provocative.

I slightly tilted to the high end with Boz T-Bone.

I made some very minor drum pattern changes to simplify a couple spots more, probably will still not feel like enough to all, but what the heck!

I upped the volume on the bass that was for some reason very low in some bars. That might have been what you were noticing. It is a preset called Soft Hands, which I liked for this softer song.

Other than that, it is exactly the same. The more I listen to it, the more I get used to it as it is and forget how it was. I tend to use the effects to change the vocals, so I’m not sure I’m doing precisely what was suggested, but I think I am following the spirit, and hopefully it has made a difference. But I think it is better now.

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Cool song Steve, I love the way it drifts into a lovely dreamy contemplative vibe. I dived straight in to version 3 as I’m having internet troubles where it comes and goes, so thought I’d seize the moment!

I enjoyed the lyrics, some in particular - the rhyming of future and suture was very apt and tasty.
I wasn’t so keen on :

which just caught my ear as as sort of ‘false rhyme’ where words are re-arranged to fit, but that is my nit-picky songwiters ear hopping in there… I wondered about changing that line to “and hope there is more time to borrow” or some such thingie.

I found the vocal timing caught my ear for two verses from 'And so we look forward…" It just didn’t sit quite with the beat of the music as I expected it to, but that may well be my expectations at odds with yours :smile:
I really liked the shift in instrumentation from "so how long does it last… " - it worked nicely and drew me in closer to the song and the thoughtfulness within. I enjoyed the poetic imagery and the concepts you expressed… nice!

I so much appreciate your attention to the lyrics, Emma. I wrote all the lyrics very quickly, and starting with just a title, well, the lines just had to fall and fit this waltzy format, and all the time it had to rhyme- ah, there I go with a forced rhyme! Some felt extra cool, future/suture, and fit the idea well as well, and tomorrow was a challenge to rhyme with borrow, I certainly used my poetic license on that one!

One of the hardest was the title lyric, which I finally rhymed by adding somehow to the end of a line, and I admit I do go out of my way to rhyme, and yet for me it is part of the cheesiness of being a diehard rhymer. I’m not worried, though, as popular lyrics often have amazingly weird and mundane rhymes and get away with it.

The fact that you enjoyed a song with such an esoteric topic is encouraging. Science can be fun!

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