Monday, December 22, 2008

Skullcrusher Mountain Drone Guitar

On "Snowmageddon" (Friday the 19th) my office was officially closed due to weather, but since I live very close by I managed to drive in to do some work. But since I knew I was also going to the the only person in the building, I decided to take my Honeyburst T-60 and my Roland Cube Street along with the Sony PCM-D50 to do a little recording.

The track I wanted to work on is a "drone" backing track that sits low in the mix on Jonathan Coulton's song "Skullcrusher Mountain." It follows the major chord changes to the song, except that it is primarily played using "fifths," or chords reduced to their bare essence, just a root and a fifth and maybe the root again an octave higher, without the flat 3rds or dominant 7ths or other intervals that tend to sound very dissonant and produce a lot of beat frequencies when highly distorted.

I set up the amplifier inside the completely unused ladies' rest room in my building. I put my digital recorder on a chair inside a stall, next to a toilet, so that it would pick up as much reflected sound as possible from the hard tile floor and metal stall walls. I set the D-50's microphones to their wider 120-degree settings so that they would pick up more reflected sound. To avoid my own body damping the sound too much I propped the door open with the amplifier, and sat in the doorway next to it. This allowed me to hold the guitar up close to the speaker to generate the extended feedback on the final chord.

I put on my headphones (wearing them in part to keep myself from being deafened by the high volume) and played my takes while listening to the karaoke "Skullcrusher Mountain" for timing reference.

The final take is assembled from about six parts. Aside from one audible poorly-fingered chord, it sounds pretty much exactly like I envisioned, reverb, noise, feedback, and all. I'm very pleased with the result! It sounds totally grungy.

Note that this isn't a complete song, and doesn't truly make musical sense by itself; for example, there is a silent section in the middle because the drone guitar doesn't play under the bridge.

The MP3 file can be found here.

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