Oh What a Relief – #RPM2020

This morning I packed my computer, a microphone, a pair of headphones, and a USB interface into the car and drove off to a parking spot behind The Loop in Methuen and recorded four songs worth of vocals.  I had the lyrics and melodies written already so it wasn’t too painful an experience.

When I was done (meaning, when the battery on my MacBook was approaching death and I had to go pee so bad I could taste it) I went home and started working on lyrics and melodies for the last four songs.  The first of the two were kind of interesting and one of them I purposely made pretty difficult as a bit of a challenge.  After those two I was really getting tired so I threw the last two together pretty quickly and they are just as bad as that sounds.

After that I hung out with my step son for a while, and made some late lunch/early dinner for the love of my life, and then (after double checking that the MacBook’s battery was back to 100%) I went back to The Loop (a different section of the lot behind the building this time) and cranked out the last four.  I got a little over confident for a bit and a couple of the songs have THREE part harmonies instead of my usual two.  Sick.

So where does RPM stand now… Four songs mixed, three songs ready to mix, three songs needing saxophone, and four needing lead guitar.  Once the full boat is mixed I am going to go back to six of the acoustic songs and add bass guitar, drums, and lead guitar and then remix them.  If I don’t finish that by March 1st I won’t worry about it, I just need to make sure I get a complete mix of each song before I start messing with alternates.  Well, more alternates.  I already have two different mixes of one of the acoustic songs.

I need to have all of the remaining guitar and saxophone finished before we leave for Disney World.  I will have my MacBook with me on the trip so I can sneak in a mix before bed each night, and if I am out of my mind crazy I might even sneak a couple in on the plane.  Then I will take full advantage of the leap year day and mix anything that’s left over once we’re home again.

Is any of this stuff good?  Well, no.  That’s not the point though.  The point of RPM, as always, is that it didn’t used to exist but now it does exist.

There’s still the issue of the half-a-song left for FAWM.  FAWM is 14 songs in 28 days, so for the leap year they say it’s 14.5 songs in 29 days.  Does that mean I have to sneak in one more?  If I do it’s either going to be simple, or 36 minutes of noodling and noise for the Blind Chaos thing I mentioned a few days ago.

I wouldn’t say I’m almost done, but I’m past the one humongous hurdle with time to spare.  I feel happy.

In closing, here is the view from this evening’s “studio.”

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Remote Control

Check it out, I have been using the Logic Remote iPad app as a… ya know… remote.  I’ve only ever used it as a midi controller to add midi instruments to GarageBand files, but over the last few days I’ve been using it as a remote control while recording guitar parts.

When I put together my workspace I put the computer on one side of the room and the pedal board on the other.  I picked up an extension chord for my headphones, which allowed me to step on pedals while the tape was rolling, but it was the remote that let me stand by the pedals the whole time I’ve been working.

Well, most of it.  I can’t select regions from the remote (can’t I?) and I can’t set up loops (can’t I?) but it does everything else I need to do.  The best part??  It actually works!  The midi controller functionality is a mess (though it’s infinitely better than it used to be) but the remote control works!

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I picked off a vocal this morning, wrote a new song and recorded guitars for it tonight, and recorded the guitars for the only remaining pre-existing song too. I’m up to 14 songs, all with rhythm guitars done (the new song from tonight still needs a bass guitar part though, don’t forget!), and two of them have vocals too.

I have to have all the tracking done before vacation. Will I pull it off??

I think so but I’m starting to feel the crunch. The vocals are the logjam, I have to keep plugging away at them. Two down, 12 to go!

Oh yeah… and saxophone.  Argh!

What’s Going On With #RPM2020

That was a good weekend.  My wife wanted to do two things to celebrate her birthday.  She wanted to stay in her pajamas for the whole weekend, and she wanted to work.  Those wouldn’t be my choices, but she’s a genius and she’s amazing and if that’s what she wanted to do to celebrate her birthday, that’s what we were going to do!

I cleaned the bathroom, I went to weight watchers, I went to the gym, I went grocery shopping, I did laundry, I washed dishes, I watched Kill Bill vol 1 and vol 2, and I played shit loads of guitar.  All that while my beloved wife stayed in the office solving all of her company’s issues while wearing her pajamas.

When I went to sleep on Friday I had 10 ideas in progress.  Nine had the song form sketched out and two had their rhythm guitar parts down.  Fast forward to Monday morning and I have 13 songs in progress, 12 have their song form sketched out, 10 have all of their rhythm guitar parts, one has all of it’s vocals, and one has some of it’s vocals.  Of the three remaining guitar-less songs, one will be electric, one will be acoustic, and one will… I don’t know yet.  Maybe acoustic?

I recorded the 12-string acoustic guitar using a Shure SM57 microphone and I doubled each track.  I am not very good at recording an acoustic because I am pretty undisciplined and I move around a lot.  I might have the guitar positioned correctly relative to the mic when I start playing only to find when I finish a take I’ve moved about 20 miles away (figuratively).

I’m also woefully under-experienced playing acoustic.  There’s a volume/touch sensitivity relationship that I just don’t get.  When I play an electric through an amp I can use a very soft pick attack and still produce a nutso level of volume.  I just turn the knob and there it is.  When I play acoustic, my brain still expects the volume but I can’t get it by picking softly.  As a result, I find that I am rarely able to pick softly.  I end up slamming the strings like a sledgehammer smashing up asphalt.  I just beat the crap out of the guitar.  That results in two things: a pathetic lack of dynamics in the recording, and very tired arms.

As for electric guitar parts, last year I limited myself in the gear I could use.  I had one guitar, one amp, and three pedals; a Klon style overdrive, a phaser, and a wah.  As things were moving this year I found that I was constantly using the same gear, basically mirroring what I had last year.  I used the same guitar on every track, two amps instead of one, a Klon style overdrive pedal, and a phaser and a wah.  Interesting to note that none of the gear I have used this year was used last year.  Everything is different but somehow the same.

The phaser and the wah are used for effect, not so much for tone.  The stuff I am doing on the recording doesn’t sound like what I do in the band.  In the band there is tons of distortion.  In the recording it’s only a small step or two dirtier than clean.  I made a conscious decision to change that up toward the end of my playing last night.  I brought in a second overdrive pedal and I used a couple of additional effects, just to shake things up.  I still have one electric rhythm guitar part to record, and I hope to add two more to the list before I’m done.  I’m going to try and shake things up on those too.  I’m hoping that one will get a fuzz box.  Maybe not for the whole song, but at least part of it.

The vocal stuff so far has been the same as always.  I sit in front of a mic (a Shure SM57 instead of my usual Shure SM58) and sing the first thing that pops into my head as I listen to the song.  Last year I played with the idea of coming up with a melody using a keyboard and then writing lyrics that fit.  I still want to do that, I just haven’t had the time.

This morning I cranked out a vocal part quickly.  I wrote melody and lyrics for two verses, a bridge, and a chorus, and recorded two vocal tracks for each, some doubling and some in harmony.  It went quickly and easily and I had a few minutes to spare before I had to leave for work so I started a second song.  I came up with something that, in my head, sounded cool.  Unfortunately the rhythm I was singing turned out to be a pain in the ass.  The song is in 7/4 time and I had it so that the end of the first line is sung on top of the start of the second line, and I kept on screwing up when the second line enters.  I eventually got it for the first half of the first verse, but I had to leave for work.

As always, the vocal part is what scares me the most.  I’m not good at it and I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoy playing the guitar, or building the bed tracks, or mixing.  It takes the most time and gives me the least reward.  I also can’t take a day off from work to do it all at once because I’m already taking a week off for Disney World.  I need to either record vocals before work in the morning, like I did today, or I have to drive to some secluded place and record while sitting in my car.  I might end up doing both.  We’ll see.

I also need to get all of this done, including the lead guitar and the saxophone, before we leave for Florida.  I’m planning on using bed time in Florida to mix at least some of the songs, and then using the tiny window of time after we get home to finish off the last of it.  I need absolutely all of the tracking to be complete before we leave.  I can’t very well record vocals during vacation… unless Mickey wants to join in.

Thematically, I am still on the half electric, half acoustic bandwagon.  I’m also wondering if I might monkey with the acoustic songs a little.  Once I have all of the mixing done, I might replace the percussion track with an actual drum kit, and add a bass guitar.  If time allows I might replace the sax with guitar too.  I would end up with two entirely different versions of the same song.  Only the acoustic guitar and the vocals would be the same.  Think of the alternate mixes as a mini-album within a mini-album.

That’s a lot of shit to do with very little time left to do it.  What the hell am I thinking?

 

RPM Challenge Global Listening Day

Today is a big day for RPM Challenge participants.  Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s community radio station, WSCA, 106.1 FM has declared today as the RPM Global Listening Day.  They are going to play one song from each of the 500 or so albums submitted this year.  They are literally playing music from all across the planet.  You can listen to their audio stream at this link right here.

Check it out.  There will be some great music, some not so great music, some music that lives somewhere in between, but all of it was made by people who felt the need to put the rest of the world on hold for a few weeks and let their own creativity shine for a while.  I applaud everyone who finished, and everyone who gave it a shot but didn’t finish, and everyone who thought about starting but never did (because next year they will own this thing).

Everyone, that is, except me.  My project was crap this year.  If you listen to the stream and you hear this song… then you know it’s me.