Thursday, May 21, 2009

the recording process

I'm well into day 2 now of recording a song at Stewart Havill's Sound Dog recording studio. I had to cancel one day of recording due to this slow-recovering flu I have, nonetheless I'm pleased with the progress made thus far after two solid days of recording, throat bug and all.

I've recorded all the guitars, bass & keyboards and Stewart has almost finished the drum programming. All that's left to record are some backing vocals. This afternoon I performed the arduous (nee onerous) task of recording the lead vocals, a process I almost ditched half-way through because my voice was husky and I just didn't feel up to it. Thankfully I persevered and did six takes of the song. By the last three takes I was quite getting into the flavour and character of the song. The first two takes were warm-ups really and we ended up using track 5 as our main take with a lot of cutting and pasting from other takes for all the dubious bits. Right now as I type this (and I'll finish this at home later) Stewart is streamlining my cut'n'pasted vocal line to make it sound like one organic take. "No one will ever know". The marvels of modern technology.

I love recording on-board instruments because the program interfaces are so "live" now and make the whole experience quite fun. For example, when recording the drums, Stewart is able to bring up a multiple of brand-name kits to the screen and we can choose any of which we like, eg, Pearl or Yamaha etc. We are able to configure the components including things like dampening the snare, ie, everything we can think of doing organically we can do via computer programming. It's the same with recording guitars. We can choose the amp it goes through, what type of microphone to stick in front of it and the distance from the microphone to the amp, and what position the microphone should be. If say, you're after a Vox AC30 sound you simply call up the AC30 and the amp appears on your screen, with the speaker cabinet, and the panel of controls in full view. You then tweak the controls to obtain the sound you're after, just like you would on the amp itself. Stewart has all the old keyboards as well like Fender Rhodes and EVP88 and the tremolo controls and the like. I love it!!! I wish I could do this everyday but it does became a tad expensive.

The first thing I do is collect the tempo of the song and record a 'ghost' track comprising acoustic guitar and guide vocal along to a basic drum pattern concocted by Stewart. At that point I paste on the electric guitars - I usually go for the Rickenbacker or early-Cure sound. I'm not an electric player so I always stick to my usual palette of electric guitar sounds I really like, ie, Motown, John Lennon and early Cure / Paul Weller. My electric guitar is a Godin standard. It's Canadian made and is made from Silver Leap Maple so it does have the kind of resonance I like in guitars. It's a fine guitar actually. It's less expensive than the cheapest Mexican-made Fender and much better too, though that has to do with the wood configuration rather than the make of the instrument.

I can't see myself recording my songs at Stewart's anymore after this one. I plan to set up my GarageBand on my computer to do demos, or just to put down live takes of songs with either a guitar or piano and some covers as well. I haven't written a proper song since February 2004 when I wrote
Song to Eva completely and finished off Rosalina in one day. I've spent my energies since learning covers, particularly Eva Cassidy. And for myself there was always Paul Weller and early Church as two examples of artists I'd love to cover.

But who knows?? When the muse takes me I may go off and write another batch of songs and be fired up to record those ones.

But it's good to get back in the studio and produce a track from scratch. It gets that side of my brain going. It's like real work, not drudgery work, and it keeps me alert and enthused.

It must be a satisfying life to make and produce music full-time, as I'm about to find out...

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