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?