Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weeks 5 and 6

"Final" results posted on myspace.

I've moved away from the four track. It looks so sad, sitting in the corner. I've decided that if a want a wall of sound (which I sometimes do) and I don't want a wall of brown sound, I'll have to use the computer.

Jason Cheese and Come Alongside have been re-recorded using the computer. When I realized late in the process that the drum machine hadn't been properly captured, my heart sank, thinking I'd have to start over. Then I remembered that I knew what BPM I was working at, and had only to re-record the drum machine and line up the first beat with the first beat of the old track. Gnar!

"Orca Straw" Working Title - Writing
This has been mostly detailed before.

"Orca Straw" again, working title - Recording
I laid down the drum machine first, then added the keyboard and the main melody baritone guitar. Keys went through the DS! then the DD6 on the reverse setting. The baritone went through my VT-22 and I assume bummed out my neighbors. These are paned hard left and right. Tick Tack bass came next, through the board. The acoustics went through the RSM 4 again and are set up to "talk" back and forth. I tried to play them almost like they were out of sync.

Now this thing sits and waits for words. I did post the instrumental version on myspace.

Fun fact:
My upstairs neighbor was on the porch yesterday after I finished recording. He says, "So practicing bass huh?" I always say the only thing worse than a neighbor that plays bass is a neighbor that just found out about ska. So dude only hears my bass parts. I'm bummed for that guy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Week Four

I'm getting back into old habits.

I wrote my first song when I was 13 and since have followed the pattern I used then. The music came first, then the music. I would usually leave spaces to have lines of words, knowing how long each part would be before I knew the topic of the song. My voice is limited, a fact of which I'm rediculously aware. This problem put together with the fact that I was dealing with a song that had a chord progression and at least one main melody before the words were written left me little options. Since Loch Berlin ended this year, I've focused on writing words first or at least at the same time as the music.

I fell off this wagon this week.

I have a song I'm really happy with, but I have no idea what the words will be. I saw a line in the newspaper that really caught my eye. "They turned to setting garbage on fire." Thing is, the song sounds pretty happy to me and that line is, or at least was about a group of murderous meth heads.

"Can we get ice cream?"
"We'll see."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weeks One Through Three

I'm trying to keep up with my process on a week by week basis. As I write this, I'm three weeks into writing and recording. Time to play blog catch-up.

Week 1:
Two songs written, one and three fourths recorded.

"Jason Cheese" - Writing
This is the first in a planned series of songs with subject matter taken from conversations with people I know. Jason works with me. He is one of the most effortlessly funny people I've ever known. The music that was playing is often a vital part his stories. I decided to use snippets of these songs as the chorus of the song, while the verses are based on the action tied to those songs.

"Jason Cheese" - Recording

I wasn't sure how much my drum machine was going to factor in to Emil Cohn before I wrote this song. Jason always talks about how he'll listen to anything with a drum machine, so I threw it on this track. Since I was using my Yamaha cassette four track, I chose to not use any stereo panning, leaving room for guitars. I now regret this. I used my homemade baritone guitar for the bass, putting it through my DS1 for good measure in the chorus. It works, but bass guitar = wishlist. I also went mono on my acoustic guitar track. The main electric guitar sound is my Guild S-100 through my Ampeg VT-22 with the reverb all the way up. The only mic on this recording is my Nady RSM-4 Ribbon.

My Yamaha PM400 mixing board is playing a huge role in the outcome of these songs. First off, there are no pan pots, only a three position switch on each channel with the options: "L", "L+R" and "R". Hard panning is my new favorite thing. I've spent way too much of my life turning a pan knob trying to find the perfect placement for a track. The lack of choice involved with left, right or center is so liberating. Second, it has real transformers and those things make everything sound like 1971. Some people have been known to say "Neve like" when talking about these boards, but I tend to think more along the lines of, "wow this is the best damn $40 board anyone ever had."

I'll almost certainly re-record this song, but I'm torn as to how I'll do it. I want to fill out the arrangement with stereo drums and acoustic guitars, but I feel the thin sound is really part of what the song is supposed to be.

This version can be heard at my myspace (

"Come Alongside" - Writing
The majority of this song was written very early this year. Jason and I were writing at the old Loch Berlin practice space, playing around with B7 and Bm7. The music of this song is all based around the payoff of that B7.

"Come Alongside" is one of three meanings of the old naval flag that hangs above our bed. The second is "I am redirecting my course to port." The flag is called "India," and represents "I" in the "alpha, bravo, charlie" alphabet. I'm using "I am redirecting my course to port" as the name of the collection of songs I'm currently writing, and intend to use the flag as a symbol for those songs. Here's a crude, digital depiction of the flag.

"Come Alongside" - Recording

Stereo drum machine! The RX11 has amazing panning and routing options. I'm not using the routing options, but I'm going to get nutty on panning. The fine people at Yamaha put two pads for kick drums and two for snare drum. I assume they were thinking the user would select two different kicks and two different snares. I selected the same two kicks and snares and panned them each hard left and right. The sound makes me happy. I also took my acoustic guitar up to two tracks, adding to the hard panned nature of the rhythm tracks. This meant a lot more bouncing and a lot more room for horrible noise to get into the recording. On this recording, because I only had four total tracks that used a microphone, it wasn't too bad. In the spirit of consistency, I'll say that the electric guitar is my Guild S-100 through my Ampeg VT-22 with the reverb cranked and the RSM-4 is the only mic I used.

As of this writing, I'm still trying to get a decent vocal track.

Week 2:
I spent a good part of this week hiking with Abby in the Gorge. We stayed at her sister's place in Hood River. I brought my nylon string guitar and the RX11. Not much was accomplished, but I did start messing around with a chord progression that would later be transferred to the baritone guitar and turn into the backbone of a song.

Week 3:
More hiking, more Hood River. At the end of the week, when I was back home, I took the funny chord progression I wrote on the nylon guitar and played it on the baritone. I wrote a rhythm part around this as well as a "bass" part that's actually played on the baritone. By the way, trying to play bass on the baritone makes me feel phantom pains on my low E string. My mind knows without thinking that a low G would sound great in a situation, but the tuning of the baritone only lets me get two octaves bellow middle C. I thought I fix this by playing the bass part on my keyboard, but it ends two full notes before the baritone. Again, bass=wishlist.