A Song (or 2) Is Born…. (pt 1)
(PS – Free treat at the bottom of the page…)
January 23 – been thinking that some of you might want to have some idea of what it’s like to be in a recording studio. Technically, so would I. However, we’ve been able to work out a pretty cool set up that allows us to record almost as if we were in a real studio. The challenges that everything’s a little spit, bubblegum, and bailing wire. Also, there are no professionals, so we tend to learn by screwing it up. Today, we’re back in the studio working on all there is to say – a song that got written about six months ago, and that we laid down for the first time about two months ago. It never really found it’s voice, so it sat in the shed for a while.
After listening to the tracking for way too long, I decided it was time to bring it out and actually find the right voice. Spent a lot of time yesterday and really all last week finding the right guitar sound – which I did, but then the guitar broke. Literally. A simple little electronic thing – a switch, but enough that actually put us off for a couple of days.
Anyway, all of that is fixed now. Spent about an hour to an hour and and half recording the basic guitar lines, and then completely redoing the vocal. And by redoing the vocal what I mean is completely hashing it for the first hour, and then finding it for the last half hour.
It’s really hard work. It’s also a little frustrating when you know exactly the sound you want in your head, but you can’t quite get there. That can be any combination of factors – not the right sound, not being able to quite pull it off as a player or a vocalist yourself… All of those things. However for as frustrating it is, it’s also really, really rewarding, and incredibly joyful when you can sit back and listen to it at the end of the day, and recognize what you’ve been able to get down on tape.
We’re gonna put this to the iPod for a day or two, live with it, and see if it actually sounds like the song sounds in my head.
January 24 – Took a look at the amplifier this morning and realized that I used the wrong microphone to record yesterday. These things do happen, and are in excellent excuse to yell at oneself for a couple of minutes.
After such self-flagellation comes the incredibly liberating experience of figuring out the right way of doing it, putting it to a new track, and seeing which one is better. (So, we have a fairly rich guitar track for this song.)
Tonight, I’m going to try and put a rough mix together, mainly so I can listen to it in the car a few dozen times. This tends to be the best way for me to understand what’s working and what is not. It will also help me figure out where the vocal harmonies need to go, and may also even give me a theme or melody for the guitar fills. It’s an interesting process. I usually find myself whistling what the fills ought to be.
The other thing I will do tonight is work out the drum parts. This usually takes some time (Since I’m not a drummer and I need to work from loops). I know where the beat accents need to go, and I know how the drums should be carrying the song. However when I record the basic tracks, I’m working from a very sparse drum track that just repeats. This song has had that basic track for too long now. It needs to go, so that’s job one tonight.
Here’s an interesting thing – I went ahead and stripped out all of the tracks that I’m not using. So mostly it’s just guitar and bass. The thing that’s interesting about it is it’s gotten incredibly fresh sound that’s reminiscent of some wall of sound 1960s stuff. That may very well be the sound of the song. It works well.
January 25 – Well, so much for that. Sometimes a first mix brings out all of the excitement of “oh my god, this is excellent! It really DOES work.”
And sometimes not.
There are a couple of things about this song that ware making it different from what I usually do. The first is that the song is more of a singer-songwriter thing. There is a song from the last album – Edge of the World – that also falls into this category. I’m used to doing more the full all out rock song, and it takes a little bit of a shift of mindset to get into this. So, there’s that.
The other is – now that I can hear the full lyric – it doesn’t work. So I’ve spent a little bit of time today completely rewriting the first and second verses. Everything else stays the same, but clearly tomorrow will have to go back and do another set of vocal takes.
January 26 – vocal retakes are done.
January 27 – …which is good, because I seem to be coming down with a cold.
Just like anything else we do, making music is a human thing. And, being human, it falls prey to everyday events sometimes – like getting sick. On reflection, this may also have contributed to my feeling a little down about the song over the past day… or not. Still, not having much of a voice at the moment (or, it may be argued, ever) this sounds like a good time to focus on drums, which I’ll try to do tonight. May also try to get the guide tracking recorded for another song in the pipeline – “Not Sleeping”.
January 28 – yep, the cold is in full swing now, so vocals are pretty much out of the question. The good news is that I found exactly the right drum sound for “All There is to Say”.
Also got a chance to lay down the tracking for “Not sleeping”. This is going to be an interesting song, and a hell of a lot of fun. It just moves! I started things off by setting up a microphone right on the acoustic guitar another one further back in the room, setting up a click track in the headphones, setting the lyrics in front of me, and just doing it straight through in one take. The funny thing is I didn’t quite have all of the song structure before I started playing. But, every single one of the sections and transitions was there when I got to it. Sometimes a song just wants to write itself!
I’m going to cut this here for now (getting a little long, you see). Rest assured that the song(s) is(are) coming along, and that there will more to this story soon!