Monday, 23 July 2012

Fisrt section "done"

...Well "done" is of course a relative term, done subject to me deciding it's good enough, that bits of it don't need re-doing and any changes that need making so that it integrates with the sections before and after it, and of course it is not properly mastered at all. I'm going to have to say this every time I get to this stage with anything so please take it as read that "done" means stage 1 is done and it is by no means finished.

However, excitingly, I think I can post it in here in a lovely widget so you can hear it...

Hmm it doesn't seem to be playing in the preview, hopefully that's just because it's a preview. Look, in case I've not got this technology going properly yet, there is alsoComScore a link to it here.

So what have I been doing in this session? Lead guitar playing of the final verse and outro. Many, many takes (about 1.5 hours-worth) to get it "just right", especially focussing on getting it expressive, which I'd like to think it pretty much is. My fingers hurt but it's worth it.

I'm happy to read any comments on it from anybody, the point of posting it up is to get feedback, give me the benefit of your ears people, be part of the process :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Getting into the swing

So I've had a bit more happen on this section, and should be not too far off giving you lovely nonexistant readers something that you can not comment on.

I've started with the tune (Water is wide/when I survey) on the electric guitar, I have 3 verses down and 1 to go. For the reason that it just happened this way, the tune was the first thing down, but this is OK (I did it to a click track) because the tune is the focus.  The real reason I haven't done the last verse, is because at the end of it there is some "noodling" to be done to fill up the 4 minutes of time, and I find noodling hard to do without the chords in the backing.

So the next thing into the mix is some electric piano. There is a huge variety of sounds you can get in an electric piano, and I'm not a great expert, but this is what I think of as a "plummy" sound - deep and mellow but with a slight edge. I played it using the keyboard (rather than programming it) and it took many, many takes to get it right. I basically did the first verse with it.

Then the drums - now these are sampled and I did program them. I do have an electronic kit but my confidence with it is a bit low at the moment, so I may get into the live playing later. I'm using a sampled kit I've used quite a few times in the past, a "pop kit" which has a nice, meaty bass drum, and the drumming is pretty simple. The drums come in in the second verse, and then the third verse pulls back right down to a bass drum kick (this is a very quiet verse). I need to do something to it to get deep reverb in that verse.

So then came the electric piano for the 2nd verse, which I did separate hands on separate tracks. I might change my mind later, but right now I am thinking I am going to as much as possible completely demistify the process of recording. I use a lot of "tricks" to produce things that I couldn't do "for real". In my defence I (so far) do it all myself, and if you are going to complain that any kind of "trick" is cheating, you need to draw a line somewhere? I mean, is taking several takes cheating? Is overdubbing cheating? My philosophy is I will do anything in my ability to produce something that sounds good and that I am proud of. I don't consider myself a virtuoso on any instrument, but my abilities include quite a variety of recording tricks. I wouldn't want to program everything as that tends to sound quite antiseptic, and I am aiming for a more organic sound. I guess my reluctance to reveal how I do things comes from a desire for people to think I'm a better musician than I really am.

Then came acoustic guitars, verse 2, as often is the case, one for each ear. A few takes (not many)

And then paddy strings. Despite being a fan of such things generally, I don't seem to use them often. I think there is the danger of things becoming too saccharin, and so they need to be used carefully, but I have been listening to a lot of ELO recently (somewhat depressing from the recording point of view because they were so carefully engineered!) and so maybe that has brought string parts to mind more than usual.

Now I've got a problem with the track that I have been wondering what to do about. I'm using Guitar Rig to get the guitar sound, which basically is this amazingly versatile piece of software - you plug your guitar in and it simulates a wide range of effects, amps, speakers and microphone setups. It's one of those "where on earth do I start?" things because there is so much variety and versatility. The thing is, it's simulation is so realistic, that if you choose a noisy "amp" it simulates the noise as well - even in the quiet bits when you are not playing. The sound I have got for the lead guitar is well noisy, It's not too bad when lots of other thigns are playing, but when you want a quiet verse that pulls back to almost nothing, and you play really quietly, the noise is... annoying. It turns out though that even a very quiet bit of strings backing as I played it is at just the right frequencies to mask the noise. Result!. I am probably therefore going to leave the string backing in all of the three verses I have so far.

And that's where I'm up to - I'm about to start another session so there should be more soon. The other thing to say is that I was in am usic shop today, and was trying out a rather nice Ibanez electro-classical guitar. and I have guitar envy. It did have a problem, one of the strings was buzzing, but a plug-in classical is one of the two remaining guitars I am craving, the other is an electrified Dobro. Anyway, I bought a kazoo. I bought a kazoo for the last album but it got very lost somewhere.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A small start

Well not only have I declared that I have started, but I have actually made a real start - maybe. Not the one I intended to do. I thought "lets get a good guitar sound for (a particular section)" and while fiddling thought "this might be a good sound for (a different section)". So I had a play around and eventually thought "you know what, I could try recording this".

So the first section has been started, and already I am plagiarising. Well not really because I will give due credit. I am using a folk tune often known as "The Water Is Wide", but is also used as an alternative tune for the hymn "When I survey". Although there is no words or singing, it is the hymn that is in my mind. It feels odd to record the tune before the backing, and for the last verse I want the backing in before I complete the tune.

So I did the playing to a metronome track. I hope it works, but if not I can re-record it. The guitar sound is a slightly crunchy sound withe heavy tremolo, which to me is reminiscent of Ry Cooder.

So as I write I have outline ideas for (I think) 14 out of my 16 sections I need. I am definitely more planned than ever before, and I seem to have an almost fear of getting going. A "can I really do this" fear. I have already done 3 albums - it's a bit late in this game to be having this sort of doubt.