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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Artist: Rachel Eber

Rachel Eber is working on recording an album in the KDIC studio. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
Rachel Eber is working on recording an album in the KDIC studio. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

By Sarah Licht

For many aspiring musicians, the chance to create an album would be a dream come true. However, for Rachel Eber ’21, this dream has become a reality twice. Eber is currently recording a new album for her band Ragu and the Boys at College’s KDIC studio.

“I started playing piano when I was four-and-a-half,” said Eber. “That was my first exposure to music, and I just did that because my mom suggested it, and I was four-and-a-half, so I was like, okay. So I took classical piano for five years.”

Eber went on to explain how she learned using the Suzuki method, a 20th century Japanese musical philosophy where students are taught how to play by ear before learning how to read music. This ensures that players have a good sense of tone when playing later in life.

“I hated [the Suzuki method] at the time,” Eber continued. “But it was very intense. I think it really trained my ears. I’m grateful for that. And then, I kept taking piano all throughout high school, but I stopped doing Suzuki method in fourth grade.”

As well as being classically trained in piano at an early age, Eber began to compose piano pieces in middle school.

“In seventh or eighth grade, I would, without even meaning to, write little songs while I was practicing because I would hit a wrong note and then get kind of distracted and fool around. I showed my teacher the stuff that I made, and he was like, ‘That’s so cool! You should keep doing that.’ So I got into songwriting, just like piano songs without lyrics.”

Her high school band experience also furthered Eber’s interest in songwriting and creating her own music.

“In high school, I took a music class and met some people. We started a band, and I played keyboard in it. We were really bad, we were called the Barbie Dolls. We all wrote songs together in that, so that was the first time I’d ever written songs, and we all sang. It was fun for a while, but eventually I got kind of frustrated and realized that I actually wanted to write my own songs,” Eber said. “It was my friend Jory’s idea to be a radical feminist punk band, which was kind of cool, but all of the songs we were writing, I felt like they had to be really angry because we had some image we were trying to uphold. I realized I wanted to write songs about my feelings so I started doing that by myself.”

Despite her piano-playing past, Eber now plays the guitar and sings for her band. She explained that she began by playing the ukulele in late middle school, but her brother inadvertently inspired her to begin playing guitar.

“My brother had this mini guitar that we got on a road trip, and that is the guitar that I learned how to play on. I was hesitant to start playing guitar. I’d been playing ukulele because my hands were small. That guitar had five strings on it, I’m not sure since when, but it lost a string before I started playing on it. I taught myself how to play guitar on that because I figured it had only five strings so it would be easier. I played only that guitar for the first two years of my songwriting which made it difficult to ever play other guitars. But it made me excited to write songs because I felt like I had this really unique instrument that only I had, so only I could write the songs that I was writing.”

Eber described how she first recorded an album before she even got to Grinnell at home in Brookline, Massachusetts. With her second album, she is very thankful that Grinnell gave her another chance to do what she loves doing at KDIC.

“[KDIC is] a pretty small studio and there’s only one microphone, so I record the guitar tracks first and then the vocal tracks. And then later I’m gonna go in and have my friend Lily Dawson [’21] play bass, and then add some more vocals. So, I’ll do some harmonies and have some of my friends add vocals.”

With one recording done so far and another in progress, it will be exciting to hear the final product.

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