Therapy Music Writing – Ricky Donaldson
It was October 2007 and I had just taken early retirement from a hectic corporate career. My music studio had been in use for over 10 years but for churning out jingles, radio signature tunes and a bit of rock music.
All of these were becoming very difficult to survive in as more and more young people
arrived with great technology and ideas – I was getting older!
All my life I had loved melody/harmony and “nice” sounding music. I needed to do something new that I could be original in without being pretentious.
This music was a bit of an eye-opener!
By chance, a long standing friend of mine had just re-invented HERSELF and had qualified in all major areas of holistic therapies.
One night, while listening to some of my earlier music she remarked that she was tired of all the CD’s she had bought for her practice and that they rarely delivered the appropriate
atmosphere in the treatment room. She lent me some of said CD’s and I quickly realised that this was something I could probably do but in my own way.
I hastily arranged a lunchtime meeting in a cafe with her and told her I was considering
writing a few tracks of therapeutic music. Her advice was eye-opening for me and also a bit scary as there were some serious restrictions on the kind of instruments and tones I would have employed. No beat (percussion) and no bass guitar type stuff! No jarring spikes in the tunes and no significant crecendos. No notable melody, because the TREATMENT was more important than the music and a client who starts to sing or hum along with the music has not become absorbed in the overall feel of the therapy.
The music had to run for a considerable time because it was not ideal for a therapist to leave her client during a session to change CD’s and break the continuity of the treatment.
Back at the studio…
Into the studio I went, realising that many of the then new digital and analog synthesiser sounds were indeed quite dreamy and soothing…but would people buy into electronic sounds?
I had to subtly blend these sounds with the occasional use of traditional instruments like wind, strings and acoustic guitars. I had to learn to record without any real beat or metronome to keep ME in touch with my own creations. I did however find it relatively easy to create an overall wash of atmosphere and calm. I kept it quite simple. When passages are long and non-melodic you can get away with being repetitive without being boring.
Creating Aqueous album
My first track “Aqueous Sleep” would run for over 8 minutes. I liked it. Future tracks would have to run longer if was to get an album to run for over an hour. One hour is a typical treatment time in a therapy room.
Seven months later I had the first CD complete and I then started to investigate production costs. It had to be done professionally to look and sound good.
Another close friend had contacts in the CD production houses in London and I quickly found that to make reasonable profit, I would have to order 1000 units! But I knew that this music was timeless and that it could still be selling ten years later if required.
Creating Adrift, the follow-up album
Five years on and it is indeed still selling in reasonable quantities and it’s successor “Adrift” which runs on similar lines is doing well too. It was another 3 years before the 2nd CD was ready. It had to have the same properties and qualities but still be different. Some of the tracks I have written in this genre have taken up to 6 weeks to compose and record.
Having achieved some pretty good reviews from professionals and also nationwide magazines I now know that I have my own style and that I can actually do this AND compete in the industry.
For the love of it…
It will never earn me a living but it is an enjoyable and personally rewarding thing to do and I enjoy doing it.
I have embarked on the third CD which should be ready about seven months from writing this article and I will be able to continue to market and sell all three for many years to come.
Equally importantly, people will benefit from this music whether it be in a holistic treatment
setting or just sitting at home trying to wash away the day’s stresses and unresolved issues.
Find out more on Ricky Donaldson and his music by visiting his website.